Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

#WomenInTech Campaign: Is It Needed?

Just last week I heard about three American mothers talking about how neutral they have been to their daughters. They gave neutral toys to them. After a few years, the girls showed their love for dolls, princesses, and colorful toys.

One of these mothers even gave the daughter, a first born, only boy’s toys like cars and trucks. The daughter ignored them all, but the mother kept them. Then the younger sibling was born, who turned out to be a boy. He happily grabbed the toys upon seeing them. Another one of these mothers was not the typical feminine woman. Obviously she didn’t set examples for the daughter to be all princess-like the way she turned out.

These mothers knew. They didn’t need fussy analysis about why the girls continued to be the stereotypical “girly”. It’s their nature! As mothers of young children, they are pretty sure these girls got more socialization from them than from other children in their preschool places. Preschool teachers are more likely to teach biological differences than gender stereotypes to their students.

If I must pick a teacher, it’s high school teachers. Last year, when I just recently arrived in United States, I was at a library overhearing conversations between a mother and a librarian, about her son. The son was explaining about Marie Curie’s work, so eloquently for a 4th-grader. He said he wanted to be an engineer. The mother said that she wanted to be an engineer, too, but during that time in high school, she was told that engineering is not a good subject for girls to study.

Teachers and parents telling teenagers about what to do and what not to do — combined with the difficult period of finding their place in society — makes them easily doubt their choice toward studying STEM subjects in college. That is why a Dutch female Computer Scientist wrote in her thesis proposition that such initiatives should focus on the parents and teachers, not on the girls themselves.

Why?

  1. It’s discussed above that the problems are not with the girls. If they love technical toys it would be natural for them to choose technical subjects. Similarly, if they love cute stuff and dolls they would be interested in something else. I’ve written about my personal experience, too, as a child and teenager in an Asian country.
  2. Parents and teachers need to learn to recognize the strengths of their children/students. In addition, you need to be sufficiently updated on current study programs in college, so you have comparable knowledge to your teenager’s, especially if they want to study STEM subjects, and also because working in STEM doesn’t necessarily need STEM education. School career counselors: here’s my little notes about it.
Source

Look at the chart above. What caused the negative slope of the green line (decrease of women with Computing degree) since 1990? Isn’t that an exciting period, where computers were increasingly used in our life? How did it impress on American society that computers are not suitable for girls?

Now, do we need diversity campaigns just to have more women back in tech? I rarely found an article from someone in the West who argued against diversity effort so strongly. Quoted: “Women are underrepresented in high-paying jobs (though this is not the same as a gender pay gap) — and we mustn’t forget that men are overrepresented in jobs where people are most likely to die.” If we happen to have more men in risky jobs, have we heard complaints from men? Why do we have to have the 50:50 ratio?

This recently published book “Brotopia” answers why the need for diversity in tech. It turned out, since so few women are involved in technology, more men are increasingly unaware that the tech profession (in the West) has been turned into boy’s club. Many examples, from using sexual portrayal of women in conferences to having boys-only hot tub parties in Silicon Valley, are thanks to the high majority of men. Not to mention the sexist treatment of women in the workplace.

However, we don’t need to have such a ratio (for diversity’s sake) if we don’t have the problematic perception toward a certain minority group. People never doubt the minority of men working in social work. Why do (Western male) people doubt women working in tech? Parents never tell boys not to pursue social work. Why do we have (Western) parents telling girls not to pursue STEM studies?

In many communities worldwide, too many prejudices toward minority cases come from the majority within the same community. If women in tech (in the West) receive discrimination, they are called condescending words like “sweetpea”, are mansplained to, and their skills are doubted by the majority group, a.k.a men, then the problem lies with the men. Well, as a woman I didn’t experience such problems outside of the West.

So, the most important thing to overcome for all of us: prejudice, a.k.a. unconscious bias. Parents, teachers, and colleagues from the majority group, you all need to address this. Diversity campaigns would only cure the symptoms, not the disease.

A #WomenInTech / #WomenInSTEM campaign is needed for parents and teachers instead of the girls.

A #Diversity campaign is not needed. #OvercomingUnconsciousBiasTowardMinority is needed instead.

For all boys and girls, go get your education! No need to encourage only girls (and not boys) to study STEM. No need to encourage only girls (and not boys) to enter STEM jobs for the sake of 50:50 illusion.

We are #TeamHuman!

Here are my two favorite questions for all young humans:
– What makes you passionately curious?
– What makes you feel whole as a human being?

No one can tell you that your gender (or your race, or your nationality, or your physical features, etc) can stop you from pursuing what you answer to the two questions above.