Women in Technology – A Fad or A Fact?

Once again the subject of women in technology has come up again. This time because Melinda Gates has put her name and foundation behind this cause. The thing is we as women in technology have seen these initiatives come and go time and time again. Some of us have even tried to make change happen on both a small and mass scale with limited impact.

My first question when some one like this starts getting involved is to ask why? Why the sudden interest after all these years? And the cynic in me then looks at where the money is… The US government have had a pot of money set aside for this cause for some time so it’s not down to that, however on a global scale the UN and ITU have recently launched their 2030 initiative to encourage more women in tech. This to me seems like a highly likely driver for this announcement to support women in tech.

At the UN on behalf of the ITU to talk about Gender and Technology.
At the UN on behalf of the ITU to talk about Gender and Technology.

I have read the interview with Melinda Gates and it worries me that she doesn’t know that many facts about the issues in the industry. She is however right about there not being that many stats easily available on specific aspects of gender and technology however this issue was raised back in 2013 by NPR and again with the ITU and UN back in 2012 by both myself and Geena Davis. As such I find it incredibly frustrating that someone like Melinda Gates is struggling to find such data still today. There has been more than enough time for people to collate this data. The UN have had time on their side and with initiatives like UN women in existence it makes me wonder where the money they are putting into these initiatives is actually going. It’s certainly not to grass roots organisations.

If Melinda Gates and the Gates foundation can help move things forward I give my full support to them however I would take the news with a pinch of salt just based on past experiences.

What Happened to Women in Computer Science?One interesting graph I did happen across which is an old one about when women stopped coding. There is a fascinating link between the 80’s when computers came into the home and when the numbers dwindled. It also coincides with the gaming era and when women were more accepted into a broader variety of jobs. So is choice actually the driver for this change, or stereotypes or something else?

I still believe that if we can manage to break down the stereotypes around maths, science and technology being for men then we might start to get somewhere. What are your thoughts on the subject and what would you do to change things? Do they even need changing at all?

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