A friend of mine passed along this podcast to me of This Week in Tech Episode 263: Done Hoeing. At around the 1 hour 45 minute mark, they begin to discuss women in technology. Surprisingly to me, they were extremely supportive of women in technology. They pointed out the same issues that we discuss in my studies all the time : women who want to go into technology or science or math they are up against a lot. A young girl who wants to go into any of the humanities fields are more encouraged to do so than a young girl who wants to go into any of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).
It is encouraging to hear a group of men talk about the problems that women are up against not only in terms of careers, but also from media attention. At the end of the segment, they even say that this is a conversation that should include women, and that as men, they are not the best to talk about this subject.
However, they (I apologize, I am not sure of all the names on the podcast, so I am just referring to the people on the show as ‘them.’ If someone can fill in their names for me, it would be much appreciated!) fall into the trap of saying
‘well look at how much I’m doing for women. This is how many women I have working on my show!’
I do not think that they meant to fall into the quota trap, but after one of the men (Leo perhaps is his name?) mentions how many women he has working on the show, I felt that the next question should be,
Why don’t they have speaking roles, why are they still behind the scenes?
After listening to this podcast, I tried to list some of the most well known women in science and technology fields — not being a tech person, I could not come up with any, which I think speaks to the question above. Women may be breaking into these fields, but where is their visibility? On TV, we only see women in the techie role if they are ‘hot’, and can juxtapose their existence in a masculine field with their femininity so they will not be mistaken for non-females (aka men can use the women’s looks to justify keeping her in a subordinated position — if she is ‘hot’ then it is ok for her to be nerdy, she can still be ‘desirable’.)
I always find the discussion around women in STEM slightly odd, because by some stroke of luck, I know a large number of women in those fields (I can think of at least 12 off the top of my head, I’m sure I could come up with more if I searched through Facebook…). But I think this is the point. Women our age are more likely to engage in math, in science, in medicine, in technology, in engineering than before, but they are still not being seen this way in the media, which does nothing to encourage more young girls to follow their interests in these fields. My last post was about the lack of women’s voices in philosophy, and I think the same problem applies here: they are there, they are just not being given the air time.
I fear that the obvious solution to this (putting women in front of the camera so to speak) will boil down to tokenism; and that not doing anything will leave a generation of women who followed their dreams beaten down by the still apparent sexism in these fields. What else can we do? Is time the only answer here?