Not getting women in(to) technology
I just stumbled on a blog entry discussing the low proportion of women in technologye and related issues. This article started in a very promising manner, making several good (if not new) points. However, in the continuation, it ultimately revealed it self to entirely miss the point, by spreading feminist misconceptions and half-truths like:
We could just as easily say today, “Give me a child until she is seven, and I will give you the female engineer.” But we don’t say that; we as a culture don’t encourage little girls in their most formative years to be engineers. We encourage them to be mothers, caretakers, cooks, designers, aestheticians, seamstresses, communicators, hairdressers, and everything but engineers — or generals, mechanics, and anything else that, harking back to the beginning of this essay, requires the slightest bit of scientific, mathematical or technological skill.
The vast majority of playthings for little girls encourage them to think about nurturing others and caring for themselves — including, to a large extent, their appearances. These aren’t inherently negative lessons to learn, except for the fact that these lessons exclude others that deal with problem-solving, strategy, physics… you know, the kinds of things you learn from playing with Lego, K’nex, Stratego and other male gender-coded games and toys.
We are misguided to demand more women in tech when there simply isn’t an adequate supply of competent technological professionals to support gender parity. Women in tech begins with little girls playing with science- and math-related toys, and it takes much longer than just a few months or a few years to undo the sociological mores of a few millenia.
When push comes to shove, girls are not girlie because they are given girlie toys—but they are given girlie toys because they are girlie to begin with. (Cf. my points on Disney’s princesses.)
Certainly, all girls who are interested in technology should be given both corresponding opportunity and encouragement. We must, however, not disqualify them from being girls based on naive ideas that biology is a non-factor and that every girl who is girlie is so due to external influences that robbed her of the chance of being a tomboy.
Another quote from the post is highly ironic, because it his happens to attack the exact error that the author herself makes:
We must stop treating girls as gender-crippled, pink-collar versions of ourselves and start treating them like the facsinated young minds that they are,[…]
In the bigger issue of the article, another important point is missed: Is it a given that we should strive to increase the number of women in tech? (Ironically, the beginning of the article gives the impression of really having understood this point…) My personal view: No. It is important that there are sufficiently many techies and it is important that we all can chose our own occupations and interests (to the degree that we have the ability—not everyone can be a professor of mathematics). The exact composition of the corps of techies, nurses, garbage collectors, and professors of English literature, however, is near irrelevant when the other goals are met.
Note: I chose to make this a post instead of a comment for two reasons. Firstly, the original post did not provide a comment field. Secondly, I spend more time writing comments than own entries, and I intend this as an experiment to see whether a part of these comments can be turned into posts. (With the dual goal of increasing my post count and having my opinions on the topics at hand reach a wider audience.)