Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Technology Does Not Welcome Women

A few weeks ago, an article entitled “Technology’s Man Problem” was published in the New York Times. It chronicles the experiences of several women who worked or are working in technology, and the culture of sexism and male domination that pervades it. And to be sure, males dominate this field. According to the article, only about 25 percent of computing jobs are held by women.

At this point, people usually talk about how important it is to encourage female students to study the computational subjects and to go into STEM fields. My high school math teacher once told me that I should consider going into a math related field because I was doing really well in my pre-calculus class and such a field really needs women.

Don’t get me wrong, this encouragement is incredibly important. It is vital that we let female students know that these types of fields are in desperate need of a more balanced gender ratio. The problem for me was, I detested math. I could do it, but I absolutely loathed it. It was most definitely not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! So this encouragement, while very important, is not the sole method that should be used to get more women in technology. You can’t force women into occupations they don’t want to be in. But more importantly, a lack of female STEM students is not even the main issue here. As the article points out, the real problem is that women working in such fields often leave their occupations and the field altogether. 47 percent of women in science, 39 percent of women in engineering, and 56 percent of women in technology quit at some point in their careers.

This is rather alarming. Why is it that women leave these occupations at such high rates?

Well, it goes back to the fact that this area of occupation, specifically technology, is apparently still very much a man’s world. A sexist, misogynistic world, to be exact. The women in the article discuss hostile work environments dominated by males, with uncomfortable comments and retaliation for turning down dates just a few of the things they have to deal with. This is especially prevalent in start-up companies. They don’t have the bureaucratic system that would allow them to establish departments and help under represented employees combat prejudice and intimidation.

So what can we do about this?

According to the article, there are computational programs and jobs that exist exclusively for women. While I understand the motive behind this – trying to include a lot of women at once in the industry – I do not think that is the right way to do it. This is mainly because it does not get to the heart of the problem, which is that women are not welcome alongside men in this industry. If you separate the genders, you are not fighting this problem. You’re not making it more appropriate and comfortable for women to work alongside men. You’re just putting them in their own sphere and allowing men to keep doing their own thing.

One of the women in the article who quit her job at a tech company ended up returning. She decided that “trying to change the culture on the inside” was the best way to solve the problem. I’m more in line with this attitude, because if women don’t keep pushing men’s buttons and trying to break into this field – proving that they are not going to let men keep up their domination – men will not feel any pressure. And, in my opinion, it is such pressure that will ultimately force men in technology to change their culture. That being said, I think it is also important for society as a whole, women and men, to bring awareness to this issue and collectively fight for change. Effective change will only come if both genders are invested in the cause.

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  • M

    mMay 3, 2014 at 6:42 am

    so start in a garage with a group of women and build something great