• Tue, Sep 20 2011

Complaining About NYMag’s Exclusion Of Women On Its ‘Next Tech Stars’ List Doesn’t Help Us

Last week New York Magazine came out with an article called “Bubble Boys” which highlighted the next generation of Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs that are currently sitting in their college dorms coding. All of the young tech wiz’s featured in the article were male. Rachel Sklar, founder of Change the Ratio, tweeted to the article’s author, “They’re very bright, but no women, nada?” In another tweet she wrote “I know the ratio in Silicon Valley is still skewed very male. But there are plenty of girls in the mix, coding it up too.”

Though Rachel could have probably provided us with a full list of successful young women tech entrepreneurs that can code as well as any of the young men named in the article, it has to be admitted that these women just aren’t on the same level as radar as these young men. Rachel also tweeted after the article came out, ” The cool things women do will always be overlooked if they are always overlooked.” I tried to contact Rachel to comment on this but she never got back to me with her responses.

But how do we get things to change? Instead of just pointing that people are not including women, how do we change the ratio so they simply can’t?  Most women who have succeeded in this field say we need to teach women differently early on instead of just complaining about it later. Women are only earning 18% of computer science degrees. That number can only be changed if young girls don’t look at technology as a nerdy field or one that they won’t fit into. Weili Dai, the founder of Marvell Technology, touted as a very powerful woman in the world of technology said women have to start thinking differently from a young age to change these numbers. She told Forbes:

A lot of people believe women can’t do tech-y stuff. Becoming nerdy doesn’t have to mean the short-haired guy, but can be the woman with very long, beautiful hair.

The interest is very important, which is why it needs to start in grades K-12, before college. Let students use technologies in the classroom. And we can make Barbie more high-tech, with some robotic function. Women have their own strengths, like fashion. In technology we can contribute in a big way in terms of the design of the user interface. Apple products are so popular. Why? It’s not just the nerdy technology inside that’s great. It’s about the appearance of the gadget and the ease of use. Females have common-sense insights into that. If we can bring the best of the strengths of males and females, we can do better.


Photo: Dmitriy Shironosov/Shutterstock.com

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  • Amy

    I tell this story a lot. When I was getting my comp sci degree, half the class in my first year were females. The next year it dropped in half. Then in half again. When I left, I was one in 3.

    This isn’t because it’s too hard, or girls don’t feel it’s approachable. It’s because the people who choose CS are, as a group, more competitive and socially awkward. Also, they are mostly guys who really liked Math. The further you went, the more the super competitive ones would ostracize and belittle the ones who were different. The obvious choice there being the girls.

    During this time, the girls were being courted by Biology and Medicine. The choice came down to, if I could be treated better there, why would I deal with these jackasses? Because of that, I saw a lot of my female classmates move on to pre-med and chemistry.

    I am completely behind the statement that it has to start at the elementary level, but not with barbies. It has to be the view of girls in technology has to change from Girls in Tech to Engineers and Scientists who happen to be female. Treat them equally, not like some sort of rainbow striped gazelle, and you’ll end up with more of them.

    Besides, the design of the iPod was a Product Design decision. That’s industrial art. Not technology. And there are a lot of women in Product Design.

    …on another note, the ad I’m looking at typing this reply is to meet your Asian Lady at AsianBeauties.com. As a female Asian engineer, this is both creepy and racist on an article about getting women in technology. The fault of your ad provider, I’m sure, but still. Creepy.

  • Morayah

    I’m going to agree with Amy here.
    I’m in a first year computer programming program (I cringe every time I type that) at a tech school. There’s only a few women in my program – about 1 for every 10-12 guys, in classes of about 40 people. We’re singled out and treated, as Amy says, like Rainbow Striped Gazelle. Further, we’re treated like Rainbow Striped Gazelle with a broken leg. I am routinely spoken down to or asked if I need help- in classes where I’m either answering the professor (they’re quite informal) or showing my neighbours how to do it. It’s frustrating.

    From the start, apparently, women get labelled as incompetent and I know I’ll have to make that much more effort to be hired simply because I’m female (which is completely beside the fact that I’m going to a technical and trades college in Canada).

    Also, pertaining to Amy’s comment about product design- there’s several shared classes in the first level between the three program streams (web design, programming and networking). In Web Design, at least half of the students are women, when they show ability that could extrapolate into actual programming. We put ourselves in boxes too.

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