The Ghost of Christmas Presents
By Emily “Domino” Taylor
With Christmas just behind us, and various birthdays fast approaching, I’m reminded that one of my favorite things to do is give slightly subversive presents to my young relatives. And I don’t mean that in a bad way; but rather, in a good way: gifts that contradict or undermine gender and role stereotypes, but that I hope will still be enjoyed by the child who receives them. Over the years, as various relatives and friends have produced small children, I’ve slowly accumulated a list of appropriately subversive books to give them. My two favorites: “The Paper Bag Princess” (Robert Munsch) and “Princess Smartypants” (Babette Cole). But why am I so interested in challenging gender roles in young girls? Not least because I feel it’s relevant to my own industry of computer game design, and why I’m still very much a minority gender in it.
There was an interesting debate across various forums last year about why there aren’t more women in tech, and whether there should be. Michael Arrington started the ball rolling in August when he wrote an article entitled “Too Few Women in Tech? Stop Blaming the Men” (in which he expressed frustration at being told he doesn’t do enough to get more women talking at tech conferences, yet it is extremely difficult to find women who are willing and qualified to do so.) His general point was that women just need to get into those tech fields and produce things, instead of spending all this time talking about the lack of women there.
Sascha Pasulka replied with a thought provoking examination of the basis of Arrington’s argument: “Too Few Women in Tech? Stop Telling People How They Feel About It”. She argued that there is a benefit to actively encouraging and providing role models for upcoming women in technical fields, and it’s not enough to just sit back and say “it’s not my fault”. She also gathered a number of opinions from among her tech acquaintances about why women are lacking and how to encourage more.
Jolie O’Dell then wrote another response: “Why We Don’t Need More Women In Tech … Yet” This makes the case that there simply are not enough qualified women in tech right now to achieve gender parity, even though we may want to. The goal we need to focus on is encouraging more women to become qualified in technical roles, and that begins with children.
Both Pasulka and O’Dell’s articles highlight the importance of introducing girls to technology early on, and trying to overcome the stereotype of “girls’ toys”.
“If you really want to see more uteri in tech, grab your nearest 3-year-old girl and make damn sure she’s around computers all the time.”
“Women in tech begins with little girls playing with science- and math-related toys, and it takes much longer than just a few months or a few years to undo the sociological mores of a few millenia…. stop pushing for more women in tech, and find a young girl to mentor instead. When she is young, give her “boy toys” and video games. If she wants one, get her a laptop instead of jewelry for her birthday. Tell her not to worry about flirting or her hair. Send her to a computer science camp or space camp. Encourage her to take advanced maths and sciences in school and to enter a computer science degree program.”
Now go forth and buy a laptop and a construction set for the young girls in your life!