The question; women and social media?
Does the fact that women love and lead the social media frenzy translate into making a career in technology more accessible? Wish it did but clearly the statistics tell a different story. Even though internet usage is virtually the same for girls and boys, apart from twitter where women seem to lead the craze, boys are five times more likely to choose a career in technology so why do girls not want to be geeks? That right there, the work GEEK, conjures up a pretty boring image – nerdy, glasses, unattractive, male, code tapping, intense etc..
This is a story of perception not ability. And although we have some fab role models in this sector including Sheryl Sandberg, number two at Facebook and the recently promoted Marissa Mayer at Yahoo the global icons are still all male – Jobs, Gates, Bezos, Brin, Zuckerberg, in fact several of them have even been the stars of their own biographical movies.
We have to make this sector more attractive to girls from an early age. We know girls tend to lean to the creative and communication sectors and IT is a core requisite for these industries but all we ever see or learn about at school when we discuss IT is coding, spreadsheets, databases and infrastructures yawn yawn! We also have to keep pioneering to enable more women to get to the top as with other sectors if girls cannot see any females at the top they automatically write the industry off as not for them.
There are many organisations doing great work to facilitate this shift www.theladygeek.com www.girlgeekdinners.com; www.girlgeek.org and the Government funded STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) programmes but I can’t help but think these organisations are only working with girls that have already made the decision to be geeks and love all things geeky!! Including being called one!
If we are going to create a step change and encourage more girls to engage the sector needs a brand overhaul carried out by non geeks! If you look at some of the up and coming sites encouraging women to progress in this industry like www.binarygirl.com or the aforementioned www.girlgeek.org as a creative communicator I am already turned off the minute I arrive on their home page. Now I accept I am not, and never will be a geek, but I am a pro-active social media user and I am keen to encourage more girls to enter the profession. I, along with our young girls need to be turned on by the opportunities in IT and to be honest I see little out there making me jump up and down with glee!
I think our educators have fallen into the complacent trap of simply delivering the same lessons, in the same way to girls as they do to boys and this simply does not work with this subject. This creates a challenge but until we get real about the differences in how we learn and process information; give the sector a brand makeover and promote more female role models, I feel this sector will remain male dominated for years to come.