Free Essay

Gendered Subjects

In: Social Issues

Submitted By apell3
Words 1621
Pages 7
Anna Pellingra
WMS 436
Final Paper
December 9, 2010

Where are all the Women? The subject of technology is a very challenging subject that is constantly evolving over time. It is one of the most difficult subjects to conquer, and often times it is the one with the highest paying careers. With an abundance of career opportunities and a lot of money to be made, why is it that women make up such a small percentage compared to men in this field? Is it because they are not capable? Or that they do not want to be associated with the “geek” culture of science technology? Women make up more than half of the college population in America,and today women are beginning to major in majors such as math and science in impressive numbers, but with computer science and technology it is a whole different story. On top of the small numbers of women entering the field, the typicality of a women to enter the field only to leave it after a few short years is extremely common. The number of women in computer science and technology who enter and remain in these fields is very low because of underlining cultural stereotypes and the higher demand on women to be in the home juggling with multiple responsibilities. Men compromise a whopping eighty to eighty-five percent of people who enroll in computer science related fields in the university level. Carnegie Mellon University in particular has a ten to one ratio of men compared to women in the field. In 2004-2005, the number of women pursuing Bachelor's degrees in Computer Science was a mere twenty percent (Fry, 2001). Ellen Spurtus, one of the few women in the technology field, remembers as a girl when she attended a computer camp with boy to girl ratio of six to one (Stross, 2008). After having a small look at some of the figures dealing with women in this industry, it is not hard to see that the women are lacking. There are many speculations as to why women are not pursuing these fields. One is the fact that women are not being caught early one. According to Julie Pandosh, mathematics teacher at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, girls often times underestimate themselves in the technology field. They do not think it is for them, so they miss out on cultivating an interest while they are young. By the time they realize they might have a desire in this specific field, they think it is already too late (Fry, 2001). This has a lot to do with gendered subjects in grade school. Without even realizing it, teachers can easily push girls toward English, History, and the Arts because they believe they are more “feminine” and “creative” and more suited to those subjects that boys. There are many studies that try to prove that boys and girls are wired differently, and boys are just naturally better at technology, science and mathematics whereas girls are naturally better at English and the Arts. From an early age, girls are being pushed in a certain direction without even realizing it, based solely on the societal biased of their teachers in grade school. The stereotypes that surround the field of computer science are not hard to find. Computer scientists are often characterized as being geeks and nerds and socially awkward. When we think of a computer scientist, we think of someone who hides in a dark basement for hours at a time, dissecting and creating new software and technology. Now after looking at the stereotypes placed on this profession, let's take a look at the general societal stereotypes of women. Women are seen as social butterflies, creative, and beautiful. They are the gender who successfully take care of the children, work a full time job, manage their husbands schedule, and make time for fellowship with friends. The societal stereotypes of a computer scientist versus the societal stereotypes of women are completely conflicting. When this issue is looked at through the lens of societal stereotypes, it is very easy to understand why there are so few women in the technology field. What woman would want to be seen as a nerd, socially awkward with hermit lifestyle? The struggle here is that both stereotypes, those that are subtly placed on the technology profession and those that are placed on women, need to be taken apart and thrown out. It is incorrect and unprofessional to make blanket statements about such broad topics and about individual people. Tara Hunt mentions in her article Women who Risk: Making Women in Technology Visible three myths that are common for women to believe and uphold in their lives today. The first is that they must choose their families first. Throughout all of history, women were the main caretakers of their homes. Women would like to think that they can have their babies and their careers, too. If this is what they want, though, they need to communicate to their partners early on to share the workload (or hire help) and to stop taking all the burden on themselves. The second myth that she mentions is that in this field of work, women often believe they are invisible. There is a perpetual cycle within society that can lead to women feeling invisible in this line of work: in the media, in conferences, and in general conversation. Tara Hunt describes, “There have been multiple occasions in which both my partner and I have been interviewed for an article on a project we are working on together, but my name has disappeared from reference upon printing (Hunt, 2007).” These types of things may not happen in malice, but it is still damaging to women. For every new magazine on the newsstands filled with young, white males talking about their latest computer science invention, the invisibility of women becomes even more deeply ingrained in the thoughts of everyone. There is a significant lack of women public speakers in this profession, and a lack of women who do not get recognized. This means that there are not very many role models for younger girls who may be interested in this line of work, so they easily become discouraged, not wanting to jump into the “man's world” that computer science has made itself to be. The third myth that many women uphold is that they cannot be successful. The measure of success that is used throughout the country is measure by a “masculine” standard. It is measured based on how much money you make and how many people know your name: it is based on raw figures, numbers and dollars. So how can women be seen as successful when they are unable to get to the top, where it seems only the men are? There needs to be a shift of focus from the quantity to the quality of the work. The few women who are in this field in reality ARE successful, but they may not have the numbers to back them up. The idea of a “glass ceiling” really does come into play here, because women cannot seem to get to the top, where it is dominated by men. Not only are women lacking in this line of work, but many women who do begin seem to disappear very quickly. There seems to be a growing trend for women who are interested in computer science to jump into it full swing, only to jump right back out a few years later. So where are all the women going? Why are they leaving the profession they chose? It comes down to priorities and again, to stereotypes. Women tend to make things other than their careers the priorities in their lives. Being a mother takes precedent over being a part of a company. This behavior goes way back in history. Women were the main care-takers of their children and their homes, and men were the ones who went out and provided for the family. Today, that stereotype is still unspoken. It is extremely rare that a male would take time off of work to take care of his sick daughter, or that he would make sure he was out of work at 4pm in order to get home to make dinner for the family. Men often give their all to their jobs and put their families on the back-burner. Once women jump into this kind of demanding, time-consuming job, they often jump right back out because they cannot juggle everything at once. A solution to all of these underlying problems is close at hand. Things may not be changing as quickly as one would like, but they are slowly making progress. A solution to the problem lies with our men. If they make their family their priority and step in alongside their wives, then things would start to change. Women, also, need not be afraid of pursuing the things that they love. It is not the lack of women found in the computer science field that is the problem. The real problem is that there are underlying artificial barriers that are keeping them out and prohibiting them from succeeding in their positions.

Fry, Patricia. Women in Technology. Silicon2.0: n.p., 2001. . Web.
Stross, Randall. “What has Driven Women out of Computer Science?.” The New York Times. New York, November 15, 2008. . Web.
Levesque, Michelle. We Have the Technology to Change. O'Reilly: n.p., 2007. . Web.
Hunt, Tara. Women who Risk: Making Women in Technology Visible. Published September 17, 2007. . Web.
Stoeger, Heidrum. "Editorial: Gifted females in mathematics, the natural sciences and technology." High Ability Studies June 2004: 3+. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 9 Dec. 2010.

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