Tech-savvy men often bathe in the media limelight, from Rolling Stone and New Yorker profiles to the reality TV show Beauty and the Geek, where male nerds fraternize with plastic-looking women. Girl geeks, on the other hand, tend to receive little more media attention than the glow from their monitors. Last month, the New York Times briefly disrupted the media stagnation by reporting on the predominance of female bloggers and Web page designers. That abundance of female representation may be a positive sign, but the article also points out that women hold only 27 percent of computer- and math-related jobs . Even if girls are creating more online content, experts stress “the profound distinction between using existing software and a desire to invent new technology.”
All of the blog posts and online profiles made by women don’t amount to much, according to Nicole Cohen in Shameless magazine, so long as the creators of Web 2.0 continue to be young men like the founders of YouTube, Google, and Facebook. “Access to information and tech knowledge carries with it great political, economic and social weight,” Cohen writes. “If women are left out of the discourse about information technology and new media, you can bet we’re left out of the production and sharing of social and economic power, too.”
One of the problems with encouraging women’s participation in tech fields is the invisibility of tech-savvy women in mainstream media. Geeky guys on Beauty and the Geek and in Judd Apatow films (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Superbad) are celebrated for their nerdiness. Even if they’re not making billions of dollars, the geeky guys are visible, lovable, and have a shot at beautiful women. Meanwhile, their celebrated girl-geek counterparts are nowhere to be found.
The affirmation of IT boys has begun to irk geeky girls, many who want some acceptance—sans make-overs—of their own. In the Winter issue of Bitch (article not available online) Sarah Seltzer writes that Beauty and the Geek encourages beautiful women to “look for the inner worth of all the men around them—not just the beefcake—and value them appropriately.” Men, however, are not encouraged to do the same.
Image by Mary-Frances Main, licensed under Creative Commons.