Remember when your daughter came home from school and was all, “Hey mom, I want to be an economist?” Oh, that doesn’t ring a bell? Why is that–because girls don’t “like” computers. Uh, wrong again. According to statistics, women use the Internet 17% more than men and create two-thirds of the content on social media sites, yet only 14% of computer science degrees are earned by women.
Why is this? Girls are too afraid to be geeks? Maybe it has something to do with this ridiculous shirt (above)? Or maybe, more, it has to do with the concept that being “smart” isn’t attractive, or cool, or pretty.
Check one win in the girls can be geeks too chart after last week’s announcement that Facebook finally named Sheryl Sandberg to their board–though Lucy Marcus, a CEO, wasn’t all that impressed. Writes Marcus on a Reuters blog:
“This is not a matter of optics—putting a woman on the board because it looks odd not to have one—but rather an issue of good governance.”
Another small win also has to go to a new tech-focused program Girls Who Code who is determined to turn our girls into a code-ranting robots. According to Time, 20 girls from around NYC–many from low-income families–will spend eight weeks delving into the dark, secret world of coding, receiving mentoring from female engineers and touring the offices of Google, Foursquare and Twitter. By the end of the program, they’ll be able to hack their way into your credit card just like a man.
The reality is this: our girls need to be part of the computer science culture and they’re not being represented. Says Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code and the former Deputy Public Advocate for New York City.
“As a company, you’re not going to be able to out-innovate the competition if the people making your product aren’t the people who are using your product.”
“We almost encourage girls not to get into these fields,” says Saujani. “It’s not an aptitude issue.”
When I worked as an editor at iVillage, I don’t remember one single woman working in the tech department. And because in my late 20s, I didn’t have chops like Faye Dunaway via Joan Crawford who could holler at male-dominating board of Pepsi, Don’t f*uck with me, fellas! with little fear, I was slightly intimidated by the IT floor, AKA the man cave. Another friend who works as an IT Vice President at a very large company told me that while there are a few women in his department, they are a “minority.” Granted, these are my little anecdotal stories, but they’re just two more stories that represent a lack of female leadership in the computer world.
Part of this is clearly gender stereotype discouragement, the other is culturally ingrained. Even a study last spring pointed to teachers who rated girls as having lower math skills than boys–even when the test scores were compatible.
Is it possible that with more role models and programs encouraging girls to step into the tech world, that some of the biases will change? Possibly. But not without some shaking up of the code first.