This week I was lucky enough collect an award at Red Magazine’s Hot Women Awards 2011, which celebrates successful women in industry. What made the experience
all the more rewarding was being able to spend some time with a group
of women at the top of their fields. We even got to shake hands with Sam
I was particularly pleased to chat to two women who are leading the charge for female technology innovators everywhere: Cary Marsh, who founded MyDeo, and Kate Burns,
the outgoing Senior Vice-President of AOL Europe and former head of
Google U.K. Both are smart, impressive women who have trail-blazed their
way to the very top of the tech industry and should serve as inspiration
to all aspiring Lady Geeks out there.
Yet while their progress is heartening, it only puts into perspective
the uphill struggle women face in an industry where only 18% of employees are female. The passing of Steve Jobs last month made me wonder how long it will be before a woman reaches the same exulted status. Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Page, Brin, and Bezos: All the technology giants of recent years are men.
Of course questions need to be asked as to what the industry needs to
address the imbalance, and first instinct is to assume that, like many
things, it’s merely too used to being one big boys club. But I believe
the problem goes deeper than that.
These days just as many women as men count themselves as tech users (see my previous posts)
and teenage girls and teenage boys have almost identical Internet usage
statistics. Yet when it comes to careers, boys are five times more likely to go into technology. Why is this? At what point are we losing our girl geeks to other industries?
The problem is largely one of perception. Girls tend to want careers
that lean toward what they deem as “creative”–advertising, PR, and
publishing all remain popular choices. Why should they take an interest
in tech when all that’s on offer for a teenager is a choice between an
Information Technology class (spreadsheets, databases, PowerPoints,
zzzzzsorry what were you saying?) and a games console (made by
boys, played by boys)? It’s seen as nerdy, dull and–dare I say it–male.
Frustratingly, those of us in the tech world know that it can be one
of the most creative places a person can work. Instead of boring them to
death, we should be introducing our young women to exciting cutting-edge
skills like coding, software development, and games design at an early
age and showing them that a career in technology is more about creating
and building than it is about number crunching. Only then will we start
to see a much needed influx of bright young women in the industry.
Until there is a real overhaul of the relationship between tech and
women from childhood on up, then the Carys and Kates of this world will
remain an endangered species. There is a huge opportunity to make sure
our daughters and young girls are creators and leaders of technology as
well as consumers.
Fast Company asked six of the most creative ad agencies in the world to rebrand baby girls. Their mock campaigns recast girls as the No. 1 choice for consumers from China to the U.S.
[Image: Joana Pereira]