Whether you like it or not, technology is a boy’s pursuit. Exploiting gender stereotypes, Google portrayed its Droid as a masculine “can-do” smart-phone, in comparison to Apple’s “tiara-wearing, digitally clueless beauty-pageant queen” iPhone. Until recently, most of the video game market was directed towards boys. Also, consider the term for the room of the house with the 8-foot flat-screen plasma television, state-of-the-art hi-def surround sound stereo system, and Energy Star-rated mini-fridge: a “man cave.” Girls are absent from the frontier of technological sophistication.
Professionally, the status quo is shocking. According to Tammy Oler’s article in Bitch:
Efforts to get more girls and women involved in tech are taking on a new sense of urgency these days. According to statistics compiled by the National Center for Women and Information Technology, only 18 percent of all computer science degrees earned in 2008 were earned by women, down from 37 percent in 1985. And while more than half of all professional occupations are held by women, only 25 percent of computing-related professions are—and women are executives at only 11 percent of Fortune 500 technology companies. Additionally, only a very small percentage of women working in technology professions are African-American, Latina, or Asian.
A handful of DIY designers, craft-enthusiasts and fashionistas are trying to literally makeover the appearance of girls in the landscape of technology—by outfitting them with chic, wired clothing and accessories. Oler writes, “‘tech crafting’ may just be the key to getting more women and girls involved in technology.”
Of course, digi-couture is a problematic solution to a cultural conundrum. “While tech crafting and girlcentric offerings may offer welcome alternatives to BattleBot building,” Oler warns, “they do little to ameliorate existing gender stereotypes around technology . . . . The downside of the tech-crafting push is that it risks ascribing women’s interest in technology to the domains of fashion and craft, and may inadvertently support the gender divide at the heart of the problem it seeks to help overcome.”
Similarly, Jeff Severns Guntzel recently wrote about girls’ exclusion from online file-sharing culture.