I would like to stress that this text is not a publication that commends the advancement of women’s empowerment policies. Exemplifying the existence of female leadership in the technology market by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg being women is making a methodological mistake as these personalities are exceptional cases, not the rule. I intend to point out one of the embargos for the effective presence of women in the technological ecosphere: the need to break with imposed social roles and enter the male empowered field.
Two Fundamental Assumptions
Historical-social attribution of the domain of technology to the male gender
From the 1960s onwards, when women began to organize and claim for rights publicly, the study of oppression experienced by women began to “bring important contributions to the understanding of society,” as reported by Albertina Costa in 1985 , and the gender issue enters the academic study agenda. Guacira Louro points out that the concept of gender is then understood as a social-historical construction that seeks to “accentuate the social character of gender-based distinctions.” Thus, considering that men and women receive stimuli and undergo different processes, and this process is essential in the construction of their identities and interests, let us turn to the construction of gender in the field of technologies.
Since 1984, with the launch of the first Macintosh, computers began to appear in homes and research done in the 1990s by Jane Margolis points out that these machines were predominantly in boys’ bedrooms. The films of the 80’s that were founders of the geek culture had as a plot a boy who uses technology to overcome obstacles and captivate the girl. Within the digital games industry was also set up, mainly after the crisis of 1983, men as mainly consumers of mainstream, violent and sexist games.
Thus, by demonstrating with experiences within the technology itself, arts and entertainment, we can affirm that even in children’s contents, the symbols that make up the male imaginary have great references and incentives to the domination of the masculine gender to the technologies
Accordance of the current imbalance between genders
If you are not sure that unequal participation of men and women in institutions and technology companies persists, we can draw.
- Information Systems: Since 2001 the Stack Overflow has circulated a questionnaire for program developers to establish parameters of preferences and profiles of professionals. Below are graphs of the 2017 survey, conducted in January with 64,000 developers and showing alarming results of disparity between men and women.
- Startups: According to surveys found in Techcrunch databases (Crunchbase), a reference site on issues involving startups, risk investments are mostly directed at Startups with male founders.
- Scientific Research: According to research conducted by CNPq itself, there is a discrepancy between the granting of Scientific Productivity grants between women and men.
The double disruption
The first disruption to which this text refers resembles the notion of social deconstruction. That is, to choose to study Telecommunications Engineering, a woman needs to initially deconstruct the stereotype that such space is solely intended for men, male ethos.
One of the difficulties for such deconstruction is that the attributes of the woman are considered immutable, because they are based on nature. Reproduction, biologically immutable quality, is socially considered to be a woman’s primal quality. Just as a smartphone can perform many functions (taking pictures, surfing the web, sending a message), but primarily it makes calls, women have been for years (and still are) considered primarily reproductive. In this way, the prejudices that have been constructed – the notion of a loving, sensitive, donor, fragile woman – is based on reproducibility and its immutability. Thus, it is logically considered that the attributes of the woman are also immutable.
Because they are playing a social role different from the socially attributed one – being the technological scenario – women usually have one more way to go, because there is a common feeling within companies and institutes of women’s capacity: mistrust. Denise Segura, a professor at the University of California, has published a sociological article titled “You Need to Prove More,” referring to women of Mexican descent (“Chicanas”) who work in the United States in positions such as management and administration. To establish themselves professionally, the Chicanas need to demonstrate more skills than American men.
This also happens in the technological ecosphere when programmers, engineers, entrepreneurs are bombarded with technical questions. As in enquiry, several questions are asked that the professional must respond in a precise and direct way, otherwise to their knowledge or interest is not given credibility. This sexist practice has been receiving the name toll on social networks.
The other disruption we are talking about is related to technology. Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, Cybersecurity, Virtual Reality, Blockchain, Drones. These and other technologies are revolutionizing the way the world is seen, learned, touched, felt. Mastertech’s CEO, Camila Achutti, says “program or be programmed” sums up the intrinsic change that new technologies bring: either actively collaborating with technology creation or passively impacted by technology.
For women, even if struggles and time for adaptations are needed, there is the disruption of chauvinistic structures and the creation of disruptive technology.
IRIS is participating in the #GovernanceInWomen campaign. If you’re interested in the topic, watch the Campaign presentation video here.