Trolls Baffled by Victoria's Secret Model Who Codes

Instagram trolls tried to question Lyndsey Scott's coding skills—and showed how pervasive these biases are in tech.

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Sep 12 2018, 1:39pm

Image via Shutterstock

In an ideal world, no one would be shocked that Lyndsey Scott—an actress, Victoria’s Secret model, and the first Black woman to receive a contract with Calvin Klein at New York Fashion Week—is also a skilled coder.

But last week, Scott found herself needing to defend her programming prowess against trolls online.

When the meme account coding.engineer reposted an image about Scott’s work with the caption “CODING IS FOR ANYONE!” on Friday, the tone of the comments was far more negative than the original. People questioned her skills, implied that it was a “shame” that she chose to model, and said that she probably only knows how to print “Hello World” (the first lesson a coding student typically learns).

She decided to jump into the comment section herself: “I have 27481 points on StackOverflow,” she wrote—she’s also the lead iOS software engineer for app developer Rallybound, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Amherst where she double majored in computer science and theater.

“Looking at these comments I wonder why 41% of women in technical careers drop out because of a hostile work environment,” she wrote.

She was hesitant to comment at all, Scott told me over the phone. “But I realized that this is a persistent problem; I mean, it's been going on from the beginning of tech.” The resultant flood of stories about her comment—and about her standing up for herself against bigots online—was unexpected, she said. Even though she’s accustomed to people judging her for her appearance and discrediting her coding for it, she told me she was “shocked” at the scale of this particular story around the Instagram post.

Scott told me that she started coding on her own, specifically around iOS development, after college, when she needed supplemental income to support her acting dreams. She started answering questions on Stack Overflow, and wrote tutorials for other coding students. As her skills grew, so did her confidence.

“Finally I felt like people were taking me seriously,” she said. “There was a point where I'd walk into a room of programmers and they wouldn't believe I was one of them, or I'd try to contact someone for a job and they wouldn't take me seriously.”

“Knowing it's not an internet-only phenomenon, that this happens all across this industry, it made me want to speak up so that other women girls and minorities wouldn't have to face this sort of discrimination,” Scott said. “Maybe people would think twice before judging someone based on what they look like.”