Last week on Gigaom, the article “Can Smaller T-Shirts Help Solve the Lack of Women in Technology” touched on one of my favourite debates – how to get more women involved in IT.
The article covered everything from the portrayal of technology as a profession to the male sized shirts handed out at a Google conference. However, the one thing that resonated most with me in this article was when author Eliza Kern was describing an audience member’s plea to hand out female sized shirts at next year’s conference, finishing her statement with and “please don’t make them pink.”
Being in my twenties, I have had the opportunity to grow up in the midst of the “tech revolution”! However, joining in on the revolution was never encouraged. In my opinion, it’s not that Computer Sciences does not appeal to “female interests”. It’s that historically our participation in the field has not been heavily encouraged. To bridge the gap between women and technology, this has to change.
There seems to be a running stereotype that if something is going to appeal to a female it has to be wrapped in sparkly paper and finished with a frilly pink bow. Well I say, forget the wrapping and bow. When it comes to IT – it wasn’t that it wasn’t appealing to me, it was that it wasn’t encouraged.
When I was going through school, Computer Sciences was the equivalent of playing basketball in grade school with a pack of 20 boys. Basketball looked really fun and intriguing, but even if I wanted to join – there were very few visible female participants, no one was there to explain the “rules” and female participation wasn’t encouraged. I wanted to join but I didn’t really know what it was all about.
Instead of encouraging my participation, our teachers set the females up on an alternative court playing foursquare (an alternative basketball game, where you get to be royalty – king, queen, jack and joker – how appropriate). It seems to me that when considering Computer Sciences, alternatives were always presented that were more “female-friendly” occupations/options.
Funny enough, I did end up in the IT industry through the encouragement of one of my professors and the willingness of my boss to take a chance on me and expose me to the industry. Now that I am involved in the industry – I feel like I am part of a secret club that I want every female to know about!
I think that exposure and encouragement to be involved in the industry has to start young. It’s not easy to encourage a 25 year old that is swarmed with debt from her Arts degree to consider going back for more years of education.
Don’t under estimate women. Not every woman wants to be Cinderella. In today’s world – Cinderella would’ve screened the Prince on Facebook and ordered a new pair of shoes on her iPhone. The IT industry doesn’t have to come with pink t-shirts to make us want to join – it has to be encouraged and shown as an option for us to explore.