By Tanya Bennet
Within the last few years it seems that the lack of women in technology has slowly become a front runner in the “we need to fix it category”. There are, indeed, a multitude of articles about it, but I see a glaring exclusion. Although these articles raise valid arguments and include personal accounts from women in the industry there is something that is not well addressed. In the articles that I read, the cited research or personal accounts come from women that are ‘in the industry’, and, most often, reference women with high priority jobs such as CIOs and vice presidents.
It is incredible and inspirational to hear these women’s stories and opinions, but wouldn’t insight into why women are not entering the technological field also come from those who are currently entering it? Today’s female CIOs and vice presidents are definitely role models and their insights are invaluable and related, but they entered the technological world at a different time and, therefore, the reasons that affected them may or may not be the reasons affecting women now.
Many people believe that society’s perception of techie “nerds” is one of the major reasons why women tend to stay away; however, in my opinion, this doesn’t apply as broadly as thought. I imagine that the “nerd” stereotype depicts an individual in the technological field who is a smart, male loner type with glasses, but in more recent years the media has polished the “nerd “ stereotype, and created a stereotype that emphasizes the brainiac and suucessful attributes of “nerd” life. True, though, that there aren’t many successful nerds in pop culture who are female!
I believe that the main reason for low numbers of women entering tech fields is a lack of exposure to tech at a young age. Unlike male youth culture, young girls don’t tend to spend hours on end glued to a monitor, but rather partake in activities that develop their intra and inter personal skills. With the lack of exposure to tech-related past-times and peer-involved activities, in other words, it is not strange that most females by their teens tend not to be interested in a technological field. Just like a candle wick, every individual needs a spark to ignite an interest; and, for males, I believe that video games and other tech-focused activities give way to a simple means of ignition. Personally, I was given the opportunity at a young age to be exposed to the technological world and had parents who encouraged my explorations.
There are many individuals that sit high up in the technological field who have begun to explore the reality of too few women in tech industries. A few programs that endeavour to minimize lack of tech exposure and experience include Girls Who Code, Hackbright Academy, Girl Develop it and many more. In addition to girl-specific programs, there is also a proposal brought forth by code.org to encourage public schools to teach more children to code. Teaching coding will give girls an opportunity to see how diverse and interesting the technological field can be. I remember being in elementary school where computer science courses were simply typing. With the constant evolution of technology, the educational system must adapt with the advancements. And, boys and girls will definitely benefit!
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