Good [insert time of day here] to you my friend.
Welcome to the October edition of the girlapalooza’s monthly blog post, this edition’s topic was not voted on, however I promise democracy will be restored next month.
So, I had a wonderful time at the High school mashup a few weeks ago. There were a few REA staff whose childberries were participating which was very exciting. I entered the room and it felt like REA.io—there were chips, buckets and presentations! I was a little sad to see that there weren’t that many females participating, however luckily those that did were very bright young girls who spoke up with confidence in themselves and what they were saying, which warmed the cockles of my heart. This is not to detract from the effort of the male students who were all fabulous and incredibly insightful.
I wondered however why there weren’t more females at this mashup, WHO IS TO BLAME!!!???!!! I yelled as I shook my fist at the sky. [Queue rant]
After about one hour of soul searching and some google searching too I had determined we all are to blame…
After doing a google search of the term “tech guy,” I was doused with images of average men (with a few of the stereo-typically “nerdy” types thrown in). The next logical step was to Google “tech girl.” I immediately regretted my decision, luckily for me I had safe-search on.
I was presented with an image of a little girl in a pink dress with piggy tales playing on a laptop.
(The photo was from a blog post that highlighted the unfairness of being a woman in tech, it’s a good laugh.)
After that image I was bombarded, nay, slapped in the face with 5 billion images of a sexual nature.
There were ladies generated digitally with proportions that would make most RPG character modellers blush. There was even a woman who was completely naked save for some strategically placed stickers toting the names of tech companies.
Now I’m all for liberation of women from the shackles of having to appear “wholesome and pure,” but it became instantly clear that women are not the targets of advertisements/information when it comes to tech, both subconsciously or otherwise. Women seemed to be objectified by the tech community to an even worse degree than I had imagined, but how I asked, could my beloved tech community betray me so?
Then I realised something: I was part of the problem… I must admit something dear reader, and I hope that you, oh wonderful, kind, merciful, fearless reader will take mercy upon my mortal soul. When I thought of a “tech girl,” the first thought was not of the lovely females here at REA as it should have been, but this:
Only alternative girls like computers… right?
Way to go me… real nice Leah… turns out, I deserve the moniker “Leahpleurodon” (which had been given to me at a previous workplace), because my unconscious bias belonged in the prehistoric ages.
What does one do when one has an unconscious bias against one’s self? I certainly don’t have all the answers. I suddenly realised how easy it must be for the tech community to have this bias against women if I, a woman, have it myself.
Suddenly I was less angry and more curious about how we change this…
Going back to when I was six, I had recently recovered from the realisation that my career goal of “Pope,” was slightly out of reach, and I thought to myself “what do I want to be when I grow up?” This was a question that was often asked of me—truth be told I had no idea anymore.
At the time my parents couldn’t afford a computer. I had used a friend’s one before and thought they were pretty cool. Then one day my life changed—my primary school was offering computer classes for children who didn’t have computers.
Eager for a chance to get out of class for 30 minutes I signed up. What I didn’t sign up for was the beginning of a fiery (yes fiery) passion in something that would change the course of my life; from that time on, I knew that all I wanted to do with my life was work on computers.
Actual Conversation between my mother and I.
Over the years I had to deal with a lot of jive turkeys calling me a nerd for liking technology while singing the praises of my male counterparts.
In high school I was the only girl sneaking into the computer lab at lunch to have a LAN party with a portable version of HALO a friend had downloaded. I was the only girl who was excited about, then subsequently disappointed by the release of windows Vista, and the only girl whose intranet webpage was customised with HTML… for all this I was mocked, told I wasn’t ladylike enough, told to find a better hobby.
Cut to my tertiary studies and I was forced to explain my decisions with projects in great detail, while male colleagues were implicitly trusted. I was even proposed to by a teacher who later failed me because I rebuffed him.
This is all water off a duck’s back when you’re stubborn like me and you know for sure what you want to do with your life. My heart sinks at the idea that all that I went through might still be going on for the future generations; that females who might not be as hard headed as me or entirely sure if they wanted to be in tech might get dissuaded because the idea of a male “IT guy” is so entirely indoctrinated into society.
[queue my pageant speech] My hope for the future is that girls will grow up without the stupid bias that I dealt with my whole life and that one day I will be at another high school mashup and there will be a more favourable ratio of females participating.