Technology in Education: Persuading Women to Engage with a Male Dominated Tech Culture

Despite gender stereotypes being continually eroded by workplace equality laws allowing women greater opportunities to succeed in a naively perceived ‘man’s world’, Co-Founder and CEO of website builder company Moonfruit, Wendy Tan White, recently discussed the ongoing problem of motivating women to pursue tech oriented careers, believing technology in education can play a vital role in bucking this trend.

Children at school, in assembly

Education to play a vital role in changing negative ‘geek’ connotations with the industry in regards to future female generations – (Photograph: Alamy)

The number of girls enrolling in ICT courses in the UK has not increased in three decades. Between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of tech jobs held by women declined by nearly a quarter to just 17% overall, and if this pattern continues it can surely only have a negative impact on future business structures.

Casting our minds back to our school days it’s hard to recollect an IT class consisting of any more than a handful of female participants, with the computer industry having long been considered a male dominated pursuit and one women were unlikely to excel in, but how did this mindset arise?

White described how visiting girls’ schools to discuss careers in tech was often met with a shunning mentality from the female demographic, with questions including “Raise your hand if you want to work in technology,” met with a muted response, although a similar question regarding their interest in using Facebook would be met with much greater enthusiasm.

It appears that this isn’t a question of whether girls are interested in technology, more the fact that there is a polarising opinion between the enjoyment of utilising everyday social networks and other modern technologies, and the essence of actively engaging with these technologies and pursuing a career which they perceive to be only viable for boys. Essentially, girls see the further dissection and creation of technology as a male dominated and perhaps even ‘geeky’ pursuit which they see themselves as playing no significant part in.

There are encouragingly a growing number of leading female figures in innovation and technology, including Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, who will hopefully act as suitable role models for future generations of young women, although the correct base of nurture and support to feed sufficient interest in a technologically based career is a long-term exercise.

Sheryl Sandberg - World Economic Forum Annual ...
Sheryl Sandberg – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)
Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer (Photo credit: jdlasica)

White argues that technology in education needs to be made more appealing, rather than the negative connotations of the ‘geek’ tag attributed to technology which still continues to be used in schools across the globe.  This would perhaps include showing what technology allows you to do, such as:

  • Communicating with friends in an ever-increasing amount of  ways
  • Sharing your latest musical, games or films creation
  • Translating inner ideas into something tangible, as an example of how technology offers potentially limitless possibilities.

White highlighted the need for men and women to collaborate together more fruitfully using the advanced technologies now available to us more efficiently:

“We need to work to get girls (and boys!) thinking differently about how they work together, rather than being instilled from an early age with an “us against them” or “science against humanities” attitude.”

The general consensus appears to be that whichever gender you fall under, the opportunities available to a younger generation born into the technological advancement boom should be taken advantage of by all, with a potential career in one of the most exciting and ever-growing industries in the world too big to miss out on for the sake of misguided and archaic stereotypes.





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