Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Are "Women in tech" really in tech?

Anneke Jong has posted an interesting article called why we need to rethink women in tech, which points out the real reason for the seeming disparity in numbers of "women in tech" comes about due to the definition of "in tech" being used.

She explains that while several recent articles are applauding the increase of "women in tech" - these numbers are gathered from women who are, in essence, working in tech-adjacent roles (eg marketing and PR for IT firms, or tech-bloggers such as herself), rather than actually having coding skills - which would be the definition of "technical" for those working in the industry.

As a coder-girl myself, I can see her point. There has indeed been a great uptake of "women in tech"... but the increase of actually technically-competent women is much slower.

While the figures quoted in media seem good at first glance - they aren't telling the full story of the gender imbalance. Anneke makes a great comparison with the music industry: "Imagine your disappointment if only a third of the 'Top Women in Music' were musicians."

This is not to say there has been no progress over the last twenty years. When I began my Comp Sci degree, I was one of only seven women in a class of 220, which was no uncommon at the time - whereas now the proportion is closer to 1 in 10... but that is still a far cry from 50%

The article, of course, offers no solutions - because generating interest for computing (or maths, for that matter) in women is still one of the Hard Problems facing education... but it's a good discussion of the problem, and worth a read.

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