A Macedonian Comic Strip Encourages Women to Pursue Computer Programming Careers

A Neta.mk comic strip, republished with permission. Click to enlarge.

For the last two and a half years, an online comics series featuring a young female software engineer named Neta has been spotlighting the Macedonian tech scene and encouraging women to enter the traditionally male-dominated field.

Neta is produced by Netcetera, an international IT company whose biggest locations are in Zurich and Skopje. The script is written by the company's staff, while the illustration is by renowned Macedonian comics artist Zlatko Girov.

The strips are available in Macedonian and English on the website Neta.mk. In 2015, it received a rave review by leading local magazine It.com.mk, which deemed it “fantastic”:

Нацртан е одлично, и програмерските шеги се навистина кул. Тоа што ни се допаѓа е што Нета, очигледно, е женски лик, а на македонската програмерска сцена и требаат девојки, бидејќи требаат свежи и нови идеи. Можеби Нета ќе ги мотивира девојките да се заинтересираат за професија доминирана од машки гикови?

Its artwork is excellent and the programmers’ jokes are really cool. What we particularly like is that the character of Neta is obviously female, and the Macedonian programming scene needs girls, because it needs fresh and new ideas. Maybe Neta will motivate young women to get interested in a profession dominated by male geeks?

#ILookLikeAnEngineer, a Neta.mk comic strip, republished with permission. Click to enlarge.

A Neta.mk comic strip, republished with permission. Click to enlarge.

Global Voices reached out to Neta's authors inquiring about their motives and the impact of the comics. They replied:

Целта на стрипот е да има локален, македонски стрип кој е креиран тука и го покрива IT светот во кој живееме. Уникатен е, не е копиран од интернет, се обидуваме за шегите да бидат што е можно пооригинални и да ја отсликуваат нашата секојдневна работа и да ги насмееме сите што работат во областа на информациските технологии. Од друга страна пак, би сакале со стрипот да ги охрабриме студентите да избираат инженерски факултети, особено да ги охрабриме и девојките кои навистина треба да се гордеат со своите успеси во избраната инженерска професија.

Our goal is to cover the perspective of the Macedonian tech community through a locally made comics. It's distinctive, not a copy of something already present on the Internet. We try to make the jokes as original as possible and to reflect our daily work so it resonates with the people who work in the area. On the other hand, we'd like to encourage students to choose engineering studies at universities, and in particular to encourage girls who should feel proud of their successes in their chosen engineering profession.

A Neta.mk comic strip, republished with permission. Click to enlarge.

The comics do not contain straightforward advertising for the company, while some episodes directly promote tech initiatives aimed at young people such as the NASA Space Apps Challenge and programming competitions like the Macedonian CodeFu (which is unrelated to American program of the same name; many thanks to Neta admin for alerting us to our error) and the IEEEXtreme hackaton. The character of Neta has made an appearance or two at some of these events in the form of a mascot or cut-out figure.

A Neta.mk comic strip, republished with permission. Click to enlarge.

The authors say that even though “we have no way to measure the comics’ impact […] we enjoy creating it and we hope that the people from the IT sphere enjoy reading it. We are happy to count every share on social media.”

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