What ‘Coder Barbie’ Should Have Said

Barbie I can be... booksMattel’s Barbie’s new range of “I can be” books has high hopes; featuring career choices such as presidents or sports players but still falls wide of the mark. We could potentially forgive ‘computer engineer’ Barbie needing help to reboot her computer, a skill she should’ve mastered by now? We’d even turn an eye at the pink heart shaped USB stick hanging round her neck, but when she utters those fatal words: “I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says, laughing. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!” Needless to say, the twittersphere was hot with ‘suggestions for improvement’.

We love ‘Barbie Remixed’ by Casey Fiesler, which features suggested amendments to the book which has Barbie narrating: “Really good games are made by a team of people. I’m doing some of the coding now, but Stephen and Brian are helping, too. There are lots of pieces to making a game, like art and music and storyline. Brian drew that puppy. You’re a good artist, Skipper. Maybe you could be a graphic designer when you grow up.” Skipper grins.“I love art, but I really love science, too. Physics is my favourite class. I think I want to be a physicist.”

Like all good code, we hope Mattel’s version of their story is an ongoing work in progress.

Are all the misogynists working in technology?

techonologyOur sister company, The InclusIQ Institute’s inbox was inundated with comments about a technology site ‘codebabes.com’ that aims to reward novice coders with page 3 style photos for every piece of new code they learn. No prizes then for guessing that sexism is a major problem in the technology industry. Headlining the website are hyper-sexualised women who remove a piece of clothing on the successful completion of a test like, ’Where to stick your CSS’. It’s actually advertised as ‘educational’ with a byline of being ‘awesome for Learning to code & Checkin’ out babes’. While sites like this are clearly offensive to women; they are patronising to men as well.

It reminded us of a MassChallenge Business Start up we attended a year ago. Everyone pitched their business concepts; looking for strangers to join them over the weekend in turning their idea into a reality. A number of young guys presented concepts for website or apps that rate local parties by the quality of the women attendees- ‘so you always know ‘which’ party to go to’. Dismayingly, these proposals got selected whilst projects by the few women who pitched potential websites where parents can rate babysitters in their local area, were largely ignored. What a missed opportunity for crowdsourcing great information for which parents would gladly pay.

It brought to mind an article: ‘Technology’s Man Problem’ in the New York Times. Two TechCrunch Hackathon entrepreneurs showcased their ‘Titstare app’ – which ostensibly offers bare-chested women the opportunity to take photos of themselves in the mirror. Thanks, but no thanks.

Not surprisingly, participants were shocked and it sparked a massive online backlash on Twitter. One attendee, Elissa Shevinsky, co founder of Glimpse, was disgusted and started a Twitter blogpost :“I thought that we didn’t need more women in tech. I was wrong.” TechCrunch published an apology; ‘Any type of sexism or other discriminatory and/or derogatory speech will not be allowed. You expect more from us, and we expect more from ourselves. We are sorry’. As purveyors of ostensibly the newest and best in technology, we do indeed expect more.

Parity between the genders in the technology sector feels a long way off. Every small step counts. We support organisations who strive to make tech a safer and more inclusive place for everyone, such as the one mentioned above and others: womenintechnology.co.uk, The Representation Project #NotBuyingIt app, and womenwhocode.co.uk, Black Girls Code , Girl Develop It, and Girls who code.

 

Egg Freezing Debate: Fantastic Perk or ‘Hard-Boiled’ Corporate Greed?

working motherAs you can imagine, Facebook and Google’s announcement they’d pay for the freezing of eggs of female staff (and the partners of male staff) has drawn both advocates and critics. Some see it as a valuable perk and an extension of reproductive rights for an expensive process. We at Female Breadwinners see this as ‘corporate creep’. As Harriet Minter succinctly put it in The Guardian: ‘Rather than saying, “have your children in your own time and we’ll support you with well-paid parental leave and subsidised childcare”, they’re saying, “work really hard through your most fertile years and then when you may not be able to have kids anymore, you can give it a shot with the eggs we froze for you as a perk”.

Surely, these firms would be better off creating a culture where people don’t have to chose between family and a career at the same time. The unspoken threat is: ‘Don’t say we didn’t offer to support you get to the top; it’s full steam ahead or a family’. Plus what happens to the women who opt to freeze? Their chances of success are slim – only 2000 babies have been born this way; only 20 in the UK. Plus, we suspect women may feel a psychological pressure to carry on working, or stay in a bad situation with their employer, rather than starting their family simply because they have eggs in store.

The fact that this ‘answer to women’s woes’ comes from the technology sector is particularly rich. It’s an industry where women have less than a 15% chance of reaching a senior position – about the same chance of a successful pregnancy for a 40 year old who’s frozen her eggs. From our point of view, while early 20’s is the ideal time to freeze eggs, most 20-somethings are optimistic they will find the right partner, have kids and live happily ever after in their ideal order – egg-freezing seems implausible and pessimistic.  Interestingly, there may be another seedier and simpler motivation why this ’solution’ has come out of Silicon Valley as described by one insider in Newsday: ‘Something about this policy feels like Silicon Valley men plotting to get the women off their backs about marriage, so they can go back to their video games.”

Why Jennifer Lawrence naked shots tell us we need more women in tech

Women codersUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d be hard pressed to not know that pictures of dozens of female celebrities have been leaked in the last week by a hacker accessing personal photographs stored on Apple’s iCloud. This has given rise to well-covered questions about the security of cloud technology. For us, this debacle also illustrates the sexist and threatening nature of these hacks and even the dearth of women coders.

As Hadley Freeman points out in The Guardian in her article: ‘The Naked Celebrity Hack: An Outstanding Example of Sexism’: ‘Anyway, the point of these pictures isn’t to give anyone sexual pleasure. Many of these actresses in the latest leak have posed next-to-naked in their various films and magazine shoots already so it’s not exactly like the hackers are revealing much more than is already known. It’s purely a power thing, like when tabloids publish pap photos of celebrities unawares….The only time naked photos of men get leaked onto the internet is when they ham-fistedly leak them themselves….,and the general response is laughter and mockery. With women, that leaking happens when others steal the images from their phones, and the response here is darker, sexual, triumphal. Neither response is good, but the one in regards to women is definitely more threatening. There is no difference between the leaking of stolen naked photos from a female celebrity’s phone and so-called “revenge porn”, when a man leaks photos of an ex-partner. It’s a means of exuding power over someone who thought they were, if not powerful, at least independent’.

Furthermore, the fact that the shots are all of female celebrities suggest the audience, and the perpetrators, are male. As long as heterosexual men are the predominate force in technology, IT products, services, and even security leaks will be focused on what men want to see – in this case, naked photos of female celebrities.

While we do not believe that equality will be gained when we have equal numbers of stolen shots of Ryan Gosling to Jennifer Lawrence, a point raised humorously, but rather coarsely by two female coders in this video (probably not safe for viewing at work), it does make you wonder what ingenuity we are missing if we continue to have our products … and even the destruction of those products, led by men.

Why ‘Silicon Valley’ is Business as Usual for a ‘Brogrammer’ culture

Silicon ValleyNew TV satire, Silicon Valley is centered around six ‘geek’ stereotypes who found a startup tech company. The sitcom’s sadly devoid of strong female characters. Instead it portrays a tech start-up world dominated by white men and the ubiquitous “brogrammer” culture. Some argue that the show’s mirroring the tech industry but with big tech companies, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and Facebook revealing disappointing gender balanced workforces, we at Female breadwinners hoped “Silicon Valley” would’ve presented a more positive and enlightening vision of the tech industry.

There’s only one female returning cast member, Monica. She’s an uber-competent assistant who’s proficient at making hotel reservations, maintaining schedules and offering support to the start up guys. Any other women, like ‘Mochachino’; a black stripper are either an object of sexual speculation or a disposable prop.

When the producers took to Twitter with a campaign #AskSiliconValley seeking feedback, the lack of women in the show, specifically in technical roles, was high on the agenda. When asked if there would be female coders, the creator,  Mike Judge replied, ‘Yes. We’re writing now and 2 new main female characters so far’. Judge wasn’t specific in his response as to whether their roles will be technical…we’ll be watching.

With the international prominence of strong female techies such as Sheryl Sandberg, Nicola Mendelsohn and Marissa Meyer, the lack of female representation on media vision of Silicon Valley must change. Nadja von Massow, Head of creative at The GIG at DST agrees and wrote in The Guardian: ’You only have to attend networking groups such as DLD (Digital Life Design) Woman to notice the high velocity of women now working in tech roles’. If the show takes heed of it’s viewers and wants to truly reflect the future tech culture, the cast will have to change.

 

Women drive social media growth

Women and social mediaIt’s now widely known that women are responsible for purchasing 80% of household goods according to The Wall Street Journal. Their combined purchasing power makes companies sit up and take notice. Plus, according to ‘Women Want More’ by Michael Silverstein women are more likely to take recommendations from friends when trying new products, so it’s even more important for brands to relate to their female audience – and through the mediums they favour. On financeonline.com: ‘Why women are the real power behind social media’, found of the 1,801 adults surveyed, women use social media more often and in different ways than men. Here are some facts:

  • Women were more common users of Facebook (76% vs 66%), tumblr (54% vs 46%) and Pinterest (33% vs 8%).
  • 30% of women used social media several times a day.
  • 58% of women used social media for news.
  • Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr gained 10 million new users in 2013, the majority being women.
  • 53% of women found special offers through their social media interaction with brands.

When looked at this way, women dominate social media – and why shouldn’t they – it’s ultimate utility is in making and maintaining relationships; a human urge, but one to which women are particularly well-attuned. So how much sense does it make for the main creators of social media to be men? ‘When we need people who understand both tech and the person buying it, women who have combined the technical expertise and softer skills such as empathy, will thrive’. Nadja von Massow, head of creative at The GIG at DST believes women are better communicators than men. They tend to choose roles which combine their tech skills with communication, such as, social media marketing, PR and client services. Social media marketing’s advancing and it’s creating an even greater wealth of opportunities for women in tech, both as users and servers.

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