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On gender messages through gift giving

Tech girl discovers gender biases under her Christmas tree

Christmas morning, I unwrapped boxes and undid wrapping paper to find purses, jewelry, and clothes from those I love. My fifteen year old brother did the same to find clothes, a drone gadget, and a beginner VR headset. Later that day at a family friend’s, the same thing happened: I received a purse and jewelry, and my brother received books and the same VR headset again.

And so our Christmas went pleasantly, happily, and contently, resting in the warm thoughts that our loved ones must have had while thinking of us during Christmas shopping. But this is also where my heart breaks, because in thinking of me, a female college student studying computer science and finding her footing in the tech industry, someone who is passionate about technology and design, they thought to buy me clothes and accessories. In thinking of my younger brother, someone who is passionate about Earth and animal sciences, they chose to buy him tech gadgets.

And so we encourage the boys in our lives to fill their bedrooms with the things they’ve built, and we purchase the girls in our lives pretty things to fill their closets with. Acknowledging this unintentional, yet personal gender bias that occurred to me by those who have seen the excitement I pour into tech and the way I geek out over my code surprised and confused me.

If this can happen to a college woman in tech who’s vocal about her love for code and has worked in the industry, then imagine the scale at which it is happening to young girls who have yet to discover their passions in technology yet see that the boys in their families are the ones receiving the latest tech gadget.

We’ve come a long way, from Target going gender neutral in certain toy aisles to companies being more intentional in creating gender neutral packaging for their tech products. But at the end of the day, the consumer still has the power to send messages through their gift giving.

This doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful for what I received on Christmas; I woke up that morning without even knowing I had gifts for me under the tree, and I’m thankful for all that I received and for the privilege that my family has for being able to purchase such presents for each other.

This holiday season has all of us a little tired and (hopefully) a little closer. We all have a lot to be thankful for, and we’re all a little guilty of letting situations like this occur without us even realizing it. Let’s reflect on and be conscious of the messages we’re sending people through the gifts we think to give so that future generations of girls and boys can both be encouraged to create.

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