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.

 

Pretty or pretty brilliant? Encouraging girls towards science

Inspire her mind :Verizon Commercial 2014 As a little girl I was repeatedly told by my mother that ‘maths were beyond we Doyles’. A ‘fact’ I believed for many years until I decided to knock my fear of maths on it’s head by choosing to use quantitative analysis for my PhD rather than qualitative. And surpise, suprise, I made it.  But clearly I wasn’t alone in receiving a few unhelpful messages from an early age.  A powerful new advert by Verizon, suggests we are putting off girls from pursuing sciences from a young age with subliminal social cues – cues that most women can recognise from their short video with Makers, an online publisher of women’s video stories.

The advert, narrated by Girls Who Code founder, Reshma Saujani, follows a girl’s development from toddler to teenager. Through out the video the parents make comments like ‘Don’t get your dress dirty’, whilst the girl explores nature, playing with sea creatures and plants; and ‘be careful with that, why don’t you hand that to your bother?’, when a young girl and her older brother build a rocket together. What’s unsettling is how recognisable these seemingly well-intentioned pieces of advice are.

The young heroine shows an interest in STEM subjects from a young age. She demonstrates curiosity about nature to the completion of an expansive solar system hanging from her bedroom ceiling to which her mother chides: ‘…this project has gotten out of control’. The stark reality is that somewhere along the line our girls move away from STEM subjects. 66% of 9-10 year old girls say they like science and maths but later, women make up only 18% of college engineering majors- the disappointing truth highlighted in an story we did on What M&S knows about women engineers that the Evening Standard could learn.

Sadly, the advert ends with the teenage girl standing in front of a glass display case, a poster advertising a science fair directly in front of her. Unfortunately her attention isn’t on the poster but the application of her pink lipstick. Powerful imagery. By this point, she has given up on worms, woodlice and wonder. There is nothing wrong with telling daughters they are pretty if you focus the majority of comments on how ‘pretty brilliant’ they are as well!

What M&S knows about women engineers that the Evening Standard could learn

34ROMA3103M&S ‘Leading Ladies’ campaign celebrates women of substance- the latest collection is aimed at the diverse women of modern Britain. While many faces are familiar, we like the introduction of Roma Agrawal. a structural engineer. Her impressive portfolio includes The Shard, London’s 87 storey skyscraper, Western Europe’s tallest building. Employed by WSP Group, she is currently involved in the remodelling of London Bridge. We are immediately impressed and intrigued by M&S’s choice to include a female engineer and curious about her background.

Agrawal grew up in India, with a father who was an electrical engineer, mother a computer designer, and sister an architect. She explained: “There’s less of a divide between girls’ and boys’ subjects in India than here. It’s normal there for girls to study science. I didn’t realise that a gender divide existed until I came to university at Oxford. I looked around the lecture theatre and there were about 10 girls in a class of 150. That’s when I thought this was kind of weird. We are designing things for society and if the people designing them only represent a small proportion of society we probably can’t deliver well.”

So why did Agrawal get involved with M&S? She wanted to highlight women engineers in the UK, currently standing at just 8%. She explained: “I loved that they had models and music stars alongside Doreen Lawrence and an engineer. It’s fantastic that M&S is reaching out to a whole new audience who might not have considered engineering before. It’s good for girls, and boys, to see engineers of all shapes, sizes and types doing amazing things, because anyone can do it. Even if you don’t like maths and physics.”

“As an engineer working to get more people, especially women, interested in maths, science and technical careers” Agrawal believes in the power of the media to attract strong talent and inspire the new generation of women to train in engineering.’” Unfortunately the media can also undermine great talent through it’s blatant sexism. An article written about Agrawal stated:

“This softly spoken 30-year-old in a yellow dress is the woman who made sure the biggest erection in Western Europe didn’t fall down”.

We doubt a reference to her clothing and male genitalia would have featured if the subject was a male engineer. Agrawal, BA MSc CEng MIStructE MIET is an Associate Structural Engineer at WSP, responded, “I would like to thank the Evening Standard for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to raise the profile of engineering and women in leadership, but next time, let’s do it without the penis jokes”. We at Female Breadwinners like her style.

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