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Technology + Girls = An Equal Chance for Success

While doing some research for an article, I came across a great piece of information - from what I would think was a pretty unlikely source - the PTA (Parent Teacher Association). I have a 10.5 year old daughter who is a total computer geek & gamer. The gender 'thing' is just starting to come up in school. One of the first paragraphs in the article stuck with me:

Over a lifetime, attitudes about computer use can become deeply gender-linked. Several factors feed that attitude, including computer games' use of male characters and objectification of females, timed contests, complicated navigation requirements, and tedious actions. As a result of computer anxiety, girls are likely to avoid computers, to harbor negative views about technology, and to feel less technologically competent. Especially if girls have negative first experiences with technology, they are far less likely to master it later in life.

As an adult late-bloomer geek & gamer I look past the overly masculine/violent characters and behaviors and look to the mechanics of the game (and the visuals, no denying I love great graphics). I prefer to play healers and swift and stealth characters and they tend to be designed as females in many games. For the rest of the video game industry, we need more smart, clever & non-sexualized characters (Chell from Portal is a favorite of mine.)

I am drawn to either complex problem-solving or plot-driven games (for the record, grinding is BORING) or overly simple ones where I can disconnect for 15 minutes and clear my head (casual games). Kids - little girls included - don't really have this life experience within them yet to know what to gravitate to. Early exposures to things that seem anti-girl or at least pro-boy can sharply alter their views on not just the games or computers, but the other uses of the tool (technology and computers).

My earliest use of a computer was in high school and some boring monotonous COBOL class. I wanted to create things and write, not program a computer to become a calculator. I was instructed to take a typing class instead. Granted this was in the mid/late 80s, so there was a stronger bias against women and technology than there is now.

As I still need to finish up my article, I'm just going to finish this up by stating that technology does not only equal coding and it does not only equal gaming.
Nomeneta Saili's profile photoSteve Marruffo's profile photoRodney Beard's profile photoGeraint Hopkins's profile photo
amen to that! I was drawn to technology myself but the whole perception that technology (read coding) was only for guys put me off. So yea, i did my cobol, dbase, pascal, foxpro bla bla (remember those?) just to try and fit in. I'm glad today things are different. Slowly but surely there is a change.
I am in strong agreement with this sentiment, +Lynette Young. I think that everyone should be given as much support and encouragement as possible with their early technology experiences.
Technology is still a field in which women are under-represented. Still. *sigh*.
As the daughter of a mathematician I can tell you that gender roles were huge in my life. The boys are geeks and the girls are sensitive. It wasn't until I hit my mid twenties that my father realized that he had forced some of these perceptions on me unwarranted. BUT, sometimes proving people wrong is all the motivation a girl needs :)
Is equal representation required evidence of truly equal opportunity?
I've got a 4.5 year old son coming up the ranks in our house as well. Thankfully right now he's fascinated with driving games (!!!) but I am/will be equally diligent of making sure that his view of females in games isn't bouncing boobs and giggling. Alma from F.E.A.R. should fix that stereotype pretty quick.
As a mathematician by training I am very aware of stereotypes. Maybe that is why my daughter ( 3 1/3yrs) uis taking football classes with a load of boys of four or five and beating them at their own game. I do not like football but I like the fact that she does. My son is very nurturing as is my daughter but they both have a competetive streak too. When my son started making unwarranted gender distinctions learned at school (from the kids I presume) I asked him to justify them. When he couldn't I gave him counterexamples. Most of what is perceived as gender based is actually not. There are differences but they are not all the ones people think they are.
I keep holding out hope that the gender stratification in gaming reduces so that incidents like what happened with Bioware's Jennifer Helper don't happen anymore. It was good to see them stand behind their staff, but disappointing it took so long.
This is a great piece - thank you for sharing. I never would have expected that from the PTA.
I am a bit of a bad person to commen t on the whole games thing as I am not a gamer. That said I am going to be unreasonable and say something anyway. Jennifer wanted an option to skip the boring bits and I would tend to agree with that. I think to some extent before going ahead it is necessary to look at the type of game it is. A mindless violence shoot 'em up without the violence would be innapropriate That kind of gsame any other bits are there to support the conmpettion of shooting things. Not my kind of thing but many prefer them A whodunnit would mae -perfect sense as something to remove the extraneous fighting from as it distracts from the point of the game. I guess it is about what the essence of the game is and how the players view it.
Sam G
Seriously, tech needs more girls.
Great article. Thanks for sharing. I'm fortunate that my father encouraged my love of technology from a young age. I graduated from high school in 1980, but I've always perceived technology as fun. I once told my husband that if he ever wanted to buy me a gift, that I'd rather have technology than flowers. I do like coding, but I've always perceived the coding itself as a creative act. People who think programming is strictly a logical, left brain activity clearly don't understand it.
It's sad and frightening that even today girls are getting turned off of technology as they reach adolescence. I agree that we need better ways to encourage girls in technology and more "smart, clever & non-sexualized characters." <3 Chell!
+Rufus Evison don't want to derail the discussion to be just about games, because there are certainly lots of avenues where technology can presented more unilaterally.... but even the more violent games still have a storyline, and they are getting better and better. My sister-in-law was visiting recently and she said "I don't really like playing video games, but I really enjoy watching someone else play and helping them with suggestions on what to do next and watching the story."

I think that is really telling and could be a great new avenue for voice-driven games through tech like Kinect.

She also enjoys watching people play on YouTube and making comments because it satisfies the same thing. We have long conversation about the Assassin's creed storyline, which she learned the whole game through youtube videos.

There is a gap here the industry could be filling and I think Helper is spot on with coming up with ideas to fill it.
+Sara Standel Is there some case where the Supreme Court hasn't concluded that "all men are created equal" applies to women as well?
I think part of the reason that I really enjoy video games now is that my first exposure was to games like Myst and Riven that put more emphasis on puzzles and scenery compared to characterization. The first strong female character I remember, not counting Laura Croft, was Jade from Beyond Good and Evil; I think there need to be more games with the Jade type character compared to the Laura Crofts of the world.
The trouble with this is that while women do excel in technology and more women are participating, those same women empowered by technology seem to be sitting on the sidelines when state after state are passing legislation that set women back 50 years. Back into the role of second class citizen and being patted on the head while "government" tells us what we can and cannot do with our bodies. There are a whole lot of smart women out there just taking it.
Sigh One step forward, two steps back.
This seems strange to me. I have never heard anyone speak of a bias against women in technology. I can see this is a male dominated industry but that does not mean it is bias, my web designer is a woman and until reading this I never really gave that fact any thought. Technology (IT) is a choice given in most schools, so where exactly is there any bias in this industry against women?
I think the truth is that a majority of women are not interested in working with the more complex side of computers.
+Geraint Hopkins try being a woman working in a male-dominated industry like IT/tech. Cat calls, 'requirements' you wear a skirt to work & crawl under desks, blatant grabs at your breasts, name calling. There is a lot of bias, just because you don't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Women are not afraid of 'the complex sid of computers' at all. That in itself is bias.
Grabs at your breasts!!!! No way, that doesn't happen does it?
Just digging the post. I started a open source educational game competition for high school students called the Summer pyGames and I also mentor on a FIRST Robotics team, I think that the more visibility young ladies have to professional & technology driven females the more confidence they have in pursuing areas that are traditionally male dominated. I think its important to be visible and to make opportunities available to them whenever possible.
+Mike Seymour uh, yeah. Happened to me all the time in my 20's. It was / is like a tech version of Mad Men. Still.
hey im eric whana be friends? any one?
yes i know i scare people with my spooky mask but im harmless
+Geraint Hopkins Yeah, I used to kid my SWE-involved friend about how hard it was for women in Engineering. Took me several quarters to amass a team of study partners to work together at understanding the material.

The women on the other hand could walk into any tutor room and say "Anyone know anything about x ?" and they'd be swarmed by helpful people.

It must be really hard to study with so many people willing to explain difficult coursework to you. :D

Also, I've never seen a woman passed up for employment if she knew her stuff. Their resumes went to the top of the pile and they were the first to get interviews.

Once employed, the advantages don't end.

And yet a close friend of mine recently quit her position as a project manager with an IT company in another city. Don't know all of her reasons, but I imagine stress was one of them.

The only time I've seen a woman Project Manager unfairly treated was when we had a PM who just wasn't very detail oriented. She was obsessed with walking the walk on career advancement, but didn't seem interested in being a supportive part of the team.

I would have tried to illustrate how some of her habits made it harder for the team to function but instead the manager in charge set impossibly high standards in an effort to frustrate her and make her leave. He also belittled her efforts at technical growth outside of the workplace.

Of course, none of that is unique to women - I've people treat men the same way.
+Lynette Young said "try being a woman working in a male-dominated industry like IT/tech. Cat calls, 'requirements' you wear a skirt to work & crawl under desks, blatant grabs at your breasts, name calling. There is a lot of bias, just because you don't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist."

Yeah, I've never seen any of that and I've worked with women as a software developer for 16 years. Much of that time was working with marketing/advertising departments that have a reputation for wild behavior.
+Lynette Young as +Eddie Chaplin and +Mark Noble have pointed out, That sort of thing doesn't appear to be "rife" in the work place in general anymore. That's NOT to say it didn't happen to you, but I think it's far rarer these days, almost to the point that any self respecting man wouldn't behave like that in the workplace, a) It's not correct and b) The scope for dismissal/sexual harassment claims must be huge!!
I've been in the IT field directly for over 12 years and tangentially for longer; I have never seen any of the behavior described above in the way of harassment. If I had you better beleive I would have put a stop to it and reported in detail to upper management and HR what I witnessed so the appropriate action could be taken. Two of the top 5 hardest working people I have had the pleasure to associate with in IT have been women. I could care less what sex or sexual orientation my coworkers are as long as they have reasonable hygiene standards and a good work ethic.
Now, ridiculous dress codes are in place all over the place in IT. I have to wear dress slacks all the time even though I am running network cables and handling network equipment constantly, I have ruined more sets of nice clothes than I care to think about due to weird dress codes. I have never seen a dress code policy that specifies women have to wear skirts or dresses although they have set standards on minimum length of skirts/dresses which I assume apply to kilts as well.
Want to see a fun program my daughter's school has? Look at They have been invited to speek about girls in tech issues at Goldman Sachs, Google, etc. Bloomberg LLP has been a big help.
BTW, My wife and I are BOTH geeks, and proud of it. The daughter can find her was safely around the shop, and has really started to sling code - in fact, he was one of the major members of the coding team for this year's robot
Tecnology has helped me find out if my dream job is somethin for me and it inspires me with art and fashion when i grow up im going to be a fashion designer and hope that one day everyone would be wereing my designes. XD
+Ed Stapleton said "I have never seen a dress code policy that specifies women have to wear skirts or dresses although they have set standards on minimum length of skirts/dresses which I assume apply to kilts as well."

The head of our mail room wears kilts to work several times a week, so it's not a hypothetical. :)
It is true of what i said i love m dream and hope it actuall comes inti reality instead of staying in my head to never come true
I'm glad for everyone, especially the men, that have not witnessed any bias, harassment, or discrimination. I can only tell you what my own personal experiences are. I had dress codes (in fact my mom is in her early 60's now and currently has a dress code at her office job). I had physical harassment. I've had senior HR managers that were older women and just thought I should 'deal with it.'

I fully understand there are plenty of opportunities for people in technology. What I'm sharing here is my personal, first hand experience of what I dealt with for the first 10 of my 23 years of professional life.
+Lynette Young So what happened in tech ~13 years ago (a timescale represented in most of the comments) that changed things for the better?
I share your experiences in in the workplace, but I have great hope for the future. My son, who is 19, certainly thinks of young women as normal 19 yr old males do....socially. Professionally, (he is in the Air Force), doesn't understand when I make referenced to women being treated differently and truly believes everyone is equal and there standing depends on how good a job they do. Yay future!
I think what they need is more girl-based games that use more hand-eye coordination. It seems like the games specifically marketed towards them doesn't include it as much. Then again, I could be wrong..
For those of you who are saying that most women aren't interested in working in tech, that's the whole point of the article! Girls who are interested in tech at a young age often lose interest in adolescence, due to a combination of social pressures and lack of encouragement. If more girls could be reached at that age and inspired to continue an interest in tech, maybe there would be more women interested in working in the field.

I was lucky enough growing up in the 70s to have a father who encouraged my interest in computers, and I've always been interested in the "complex side of tech" and have over 3 decades of programming experience. My best friend in high school and I used to write Mad Libs in Basic on the TRS-80, and she is also working in IT. To say that women just aren't interested in the field shows the kind of perception issues that need to be addressed. There's nothing inherently unfeminine about being interested in technology, but as long as the perception exists that there is, many young women will avoid it, consciously or unconsciously.
+Sheila Ruth I've found that girls lose interest in tech fields in college. I took a series at Ohio State called "Intro to Engineering".

The first quarter, there were more women than men. By the second quarter it had dropped to a little under 50%. The third class was nearly all men.

I don't think it was the class so much that made women reconsider their career goals. Instead it was probably the other required courses we were taking at the same time.

Since my Mom is the Academic Program Administrator for the Electrical & Computer Engineering department (and very involved with SWE on campus) I'll ask her what they've found to be driving women away and report back after lunch.
I think in today's world as far as gamer's boy or girl I really can't tell the difference I think your ether a gamer or your not I have living proofs of this my youngest daughter is more get up and go type girl and my step daughter is a gamer chic and she has no problem at all with her gender in the computer world at all and these girls are one year a part its just incredible. Myself I have tried to play X box and there is no way I can do that I'm like lost in time no eye hand coordination.Sorry did not mean to carry on like that great reading
+Sheila Ruth Turns out they're finding that most women who pursue educations in Engineering are giving it a try at the urging of family members and loved ones who are in technical fields. After a few quarters of it, they go to other programs after deciding that it isn't "who they are".

I asked about the reason women decide Engineering isn't for them, and the general feeling seems to be that in this day and age there is so much effort to getting girls to even think of becoming involved in the technical fields that they are paid a lot of lip-service by people trying to be "encouraging".

Their enthusiasm is quickly dampened when it turns out that they are unprepared academically and even with the advantages I outlined above.

So I guess the moral of the story is, get girls interested in STEM fields, but shore the interest up with the skills to give them confidence to hit the ground running.

I'm particularly interested in success here as the father of a baby girl. I'll be doing whatever I can to include her in Dad's STEM oriented leisure activities - while walking the tightrope of avoiding pressure to be something she doesn't want to be.

Those with specific questions are welcome to contact Ms. Glenda LaRue at Ohio State. She's the Program Director of the Women in Engineering Program.
For the record, I'm a HUGE Skyrim fan although I cannot play the dang game because I use a Mac. #dragonqueen ;)
thanks for sharing it.but i believe things has been changed & what u say can not be true in this new world
In my part of the world there is no bias in either gender. However i do notice that males tend to be more interested and stick and learn more about a tech than a female would.

I am not sure but i think females are just good at multi-tasking while males aren't. Males in my view tend to focus on one tech and then try to expand on it and try to link everything and and invent new things out of it just for the fun of it.

An example of what i said above is the example in the big bang theory in which one episode the boys managed to turn off the light switch through the internet. Now to most females i know in this case would not be that interested in the details but most geek boys would defiantly love to find out.

I know i am generalizing here but its just the way things are right now at least in my part of the world. I have an android phone and tablet and do all sorts of crazy things on it and i have fun discussing it with my guy pals but when i try to talk to my female friends about it they just are not interested.

Believe me when i say guy geeks would love very much to have more girl geeks but it's just not happening as often as we like.

Perhaps females are not being encouraged enough but i think its just the way females are wired.
+Nomeneta Saili, I would tend to argue that "noticing a tendency" ends up being a strong indication that we should look for underlying bias.
power to the women.thing run better when you're in charge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Go Girls! (more trampolines please)
Michael O'Reilly. Perhaps but i really do wish there are more females in ICT. I am sure they will provide a different perspective. I always do try not to think about current trends but its hard when time and again its what i observe. I recently advertised an assistant GIS specialist post and all who applied were males.

Another interesting thing i observed now is that there also no gays in ICT in my part of the world.
+Tanner Bodnarik yes, there have been studies. That is what the original article points to - research. Did you even bother to read it or are you jumping in solely based on the comments?
@ Tanner Bodnarik. I think she is trying to link the two as most people in ICT would normally play vid games as well and they are kind of parallel.

You go in a PC gaming forum and you will find that the majority i bet would be males talking about the latest GPU's/CPU's and their benckmarks which are really interesting to them. Talk to any girl in ICT about these and the chances are they might not be interested in these at all.

In this day an age i think it has less to do with social factors but more to do with how we are wired. It is no secret that girls and boys are wired differently.
Stu M
On the internet, nobody knows you're a girl.
+Mark Noble Thanks for looking into that. It's a fine line to know how much to encourage young people in any field without crossing over into pressuring them. I can see how that could happen, but I still think it's important to try to make STEM cool for girls.
Technology changes fast, not so much the way little kids are raised.
Well another way to look at it boys had a good head start in the tech industry so girls are now just starting to catch up.

Using gaming. 20 years ago in SNES era you would hardly or never find any girl gamer. Now that has changed a lot. Not just in PC but also in console and mostly mobile gaming.

Perhaps in another 5 years there would just as many gming fanboys as there are fangirls arguing which multi-plat game version has more pixel count and which console is the best lol!.
+Nomeneta Saili My theory on the lack of SNES girls is that they are all taken. Regardless, we need more. I support this movement with every fiber of my being and 50$.
Technology + Girls = Nerds Dream.

Sorry i just have to say it.

@Josh Maleszewskj. I meant back then. Started gaming in the Atari days and then moved to NES and by SNES most girls my age didn't like it anymore as they say it's too complex.
I was struck by the selection of character types you choose to play many of the girls I know my daughter included play those classes and seem far better at organizing and running groups compared to the guys I run with food for thought right there
Lynette Young that's not bias that's harrasment, anyone who gets grabbed at or is offended by another be that a wolf whistle, sexual comments or anything said which a person feels uncomfortable with then they should go talk to their boss, and if that fails the police. With regards to being required to wear a skirt erm just don't and if you get sacked rake in the unfair dismissal claim.

What you just described happens in any work environment nothing to do with IT bias. Even female dominated trades like beautitions get this kind of abuse from people passing by the shop!

I really don't see where you are claiming any bias again women in IT.

General sexism yes. You are being sexist by claiming this is how all the men in IT are. In any workplace there will be sexism, be it a male, female or mixed workplace. You can not then tag this general occorance to and industry and claim it is specific.

I'll finish with a little story here. A woman I know is a chartered building surveyor, there is 1 other woman in her office. A man in her office started making comments and almost stalking her. So she reported him to the boss. Now this boss was just as bad and a friend of the guy so nothing happened. That was until she filed a sexual harrasment charge against her college and informed the police that the boss refused to help. The man harrasing her lost his job and the boss was fined.

Action like that needs to be taken. She had to change jobs after this anyway as there was too much tension in the office. However nobody dared even speak a word out of line after that, and I'm sure no man in that office will ever try anything like that again.
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