The 21st century has drastically shifted its dependence upon technology in every aspect of daily activities, thus giving birth to the information revolution. These technologies keep changing and improving, and in return it has caused a high demand for labor skills in the information and communication technology field. Research from the European Commission (2016) shows that there are approximately 120,000 new jobs every year in ICT; unfortunately only about thirty percent of the seven million currently employed in the field are women. This is not something occurring only locally or regionally, but in fact the gender disparity is something that’s taking place at a global scale (Eashwar & Vidyashankar, 2013). These patterns of gender disparity are dictating higher skilled and higher-value added jobs to men, while women are concentrated in lower-value added jobs. This global phenomenon has no clear answer, but various keen observations can be looked upon to see how the situation has gotten to this point.
The Personal Computer & Commercialism
It’s necessary to understand that despite the fact that the current labor market in ICT is mostly made up of men, it has not always been that way. On the contrary, a large percentage of people who were key pioneers in computer science were women. Take for instance Ada Lovelace who had the computer language ADA named after her or Grace Hopper who pioneered electronic automated computer programming (Sydell, 2014). However, in 1984 as Henn (2014) points out something plunged and changed the field; the personal computer was introduced as a commercial product. There was a heavy emphasis on the marketing of the personal computer as a more male oriented product, and unconsciously dissuaded girls from computers by indirectly teaching that it was not meant for them. Cultural adaptation to marketing standpoints and acceptance towards senses of appeal are so deeply rooted that they become the norms of tomorrow. This cemented the tech culture that has later been seen in movies ranging from Revenge of the Nerds to today’s advanced graphical video games which gives them a ‘macho’ feel. Rare are the circumstances that a protagonist in these tech oriented features are portrayed by a female. As a result it has contributed to the disparity in the computer science field, and deeply rooted the year 1984 as the time “when women stopped coding” (Henn, 2014).
Lack of Resources
Fast forwarding a span of over thirty years since the pc went commercial there’s now mobile devices and sophisticated gadgets ruling the technology market. The internet has come to evolve and continues to bridge the gap between time and space boundaries. However, despite the abundance not everyone has access to these technologies. In a research by Ayres titled “Women and Web” showed that women are twenty three percent less likely to use the internet and gadgets than men in low to medium income countries (as cited in Eashwar & Vidyashankar, 2013). These are due to a variety of reasons ranging from social, and economic factors. Many times these women are simply left at the home as care takers of the families, and the young who cannot be sent for an education do not get the exposure to the ICT field. Low paying jobs for the essential necessities are the key to surviving on a day to day basis; technologies become a farfetched idea that only some can achieve. Additionally, developing countries sometimes fail to introduce mandatory digital technologies curriculums because they generally lack the infrastructure or human resources to teach these curriculums (Galvin, 2015).
Women Can Engage
The previous argument however would not fit the description for women who reside in developed countries that have the necessary resources available. Despite the availability the disparity remains the same. However, clear examples of today’s most powerful women in the tech industry can be seen through Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer that portray how women can effectively engage in the field. Despite the hurdles encountered by the deep male oriented culture in the tech field they have succeeded and held highly influential positions. This shows that women have the available opportunities to be empowered just like men in the technology field. To support the argument Andrews (2016) points out that a study in the Journal Peerj revealed that women are excellent coders and in most cases even better than their peers.
While some may argue that sexism in the industry is a root cause for the gender disparity, this author however believes that the argument is a case of paraconsistent logic. If the computer science field would not dominate as one the fast growing industries then it would simply be a case such as that of low volume of women in philosophy. Similarly, more women are engaging in education and social sciences, but the unequal balance and representation of men in the fields are simply deemed ok. There are opportunities for women without gender discrimination as has been seen with examples of Mayer and Sanberg. Women need to start engaging, demonstrating their capacities, and motivate others to enter the field. The same could be said if the art industry such as that of ballet wanted more men.
The fact remains that there are more men than women in the computer science field, and the disparity has left many open jobs. They are needed at the global scale. Women’s participation in the industry would boost any economic system by filling in the available jobs that keep opening up every year, and thus contribute to the overall gross domestic product of a country. In order for this to happen it needs to be more than just about women participating in ICT, but about transforming ICT itself. There needs to be government policies with strong gender policies that attract the young women to the field by engaging with civil society. Corporate dominance needs to be challenged by demanding the implementation of gender practices being deployed through design. These implementations need to be further evaluated alongside ICT and gender experts by rigorously collecting information through past and future statistics on gender indicators, the use of ICT, employment and education. At the same time we must realize that everyone has a different path to the pursuit of happiness, and just like men not all women see a computer science careers as the ultimate achievement in life.
Andrews, R. (2016). Women are Seen as Better Coders – But only if their Gender isn’t Know. Retrieved from http://www.iflscience.com/technology/women-are-seen-better-coders-only-if-theirgender-isnt-known/
Eashwar, S., Vidyashankar M. (2013). Gender Disparity in Access to ICT a Global Phenomenon. Retrieved from http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/gender-disparity-in-access-to-ict-aglobal-phenomenon/article4740393.ece
European Commission. (2016). Women in Digital. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/digital-singlemarket/en/women-ict
Galvin, P. (2015). The numbers Behind Bridging the Gender Gap in ICT. Retrieved from http://techexec.com.au/the-numbers-behind-bridging-the-gender-gap-in-ict/
Henn,S. (2014). When Women Stopped Coding. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/ money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-women-stopped-coding
Sydell, L. (2014). The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/10/06/345799830/the-forgotten-femaleprogrammers-who-created-modern-tech
published by Alberto J. Matus