Women in technology and the perceptions that exist around them

Introduction:

Today women are seen in a diverse array of fields including piloting, engineering and even on the front lines of combat in war zones. Though we see women trying to take charge and engage themselves in many fields that they are passionate about, is it a worthwhile pleasant achievement or is it a path filled with obstacles? A lot of us are aware of how women have to juggle between different roles starting from being a mother, daughter, wife or even the only candidate who earns for the family. This post will highlight the struggles and the stereotypes that exist about the women in technology that make their success curve stagnate or even end. Many obstacles exist in the lives of women that include: unfriendly office atmosphere, constant taunts from co-workers, demotivation or inadequate support from family etc. that often result in a women’s professional life to either end or show no improvement. Will the situation for women improve and what role does popular culture have in this topic is what this blog post will cover?

Portrayal in pop culture and media:

 Women are portrayed in a very particular manner in each source that I have found. Some of them portray women as a treat for the eye or a source of entertainment while others show the unruly work environment and harsh comments that they listen to as they work. I was very surprised to see the reception of women to be in a certain way in each movie or source that I observed. I collected sources that belonged to different time frames to be able to compare the changes in the perception of women in technology fields. It will be interesting to see the evolution of women in the technology industry. The media sources that I use emphasize the pain and the complicated situations that women go through to have a decent footing in their jobs, however, it hasn’t managed to show how women today are slowly trying to combat the male dominance or chauvinism in the industry to build a world for themselves.

The first source that I observed was the TV series called Knight Riders that was broadcast in the 1980s. It was one of the most popular TV series of the time and well known for the unique storyline and concept that was technologically advanced. The plot was based on the lives of engineers in a crime investigation and justice firm that made use of an artificial intelligence driven advanced car. The program was called the Knight Rider Two Thousand (KITT) Pilot Program and the objective was to save and protect as many people as possible with their bullet fast ideas and car. The chief technician and engineer of the car was a lady named Dr. Bonnie Bestow played by Patricia and her role went through several ups and downs with every season. She was initially portrayed as a person with little or no experience and contribution and is clearly irked with her coworkers, but as a few episodes pass by, there is a change in her behavior and she is shown as a woman who talks only when required and is the only person who can fix the software and technical difficulties of the car. It is amazing that the main lead of the show saw her as an intelligent person who is an excellent problem solver. I think the problem that seemed to sometimes annoy her was the unnecessary commenting of her coworkers and the constant discussions they had, to demotivate her and provoke her to leave. Such disturbances and frequent conversations can often force a person to give up but in this case the female character came out unperturbed.

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Dr Bonnie in KITT car

 

I think the highlights of the show that served as evidence to the way Dr. Bonnie was treated include: the pranks that her coworkers played on her when she was engrossed in work, the constant arguments that they had around her, unnecessary provocative acts and the hostile environment that she was being put in at times. This correlated to my thesis by proving that women often had to go through many more obstacles than male counterparts though they were genuinely talented and truly deserved their jobs.

The second source that I used to show the portrayal of women in tech was the recent movie “Hidden Figures”. The journey of three women in NASA is shown and there is a racial comparison and discrimination that is highlighted in the movie with respect to the African American women. Despite their hard work, perseverance and their struggle, initially they were not rewarded for their contribution. The story picks up momentum in the middle, where the African American women learn new skills and work hard towards a satellite project that would benefit the nation. They are noticed for their contribution and slowly get accepted in an American dominated work environment that treated them as people of color and unskilled workers earlier. The transition shown in the movie tries to narrate the untold story of three women but also shows the hardships that African American women faced to fulfil their dreams of becoming successful scientists or engineers in NASA. Small details in the movie like the difference in treatment towards the African American women, segregated toilet, distance between the working spaces of the African American and the American people, struggle to be educated in an only   whites’ college and difference in rules and legislature between men and women are depicted very well. I think the movie served its purpose of narrating the wonderful story and showing how three women had a very big role in launching one of the most prestigious projects that made the USA what it is today.

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This relates to my thesis by means of highlighting how women wanted to build their career in technology fields but had to put in more effort and time trying to prove themselves rather than simply turning in their ideas and participating in group meetings. They were often either ignored or were never given the deserved respect and credit for the work they did.

The last source is an ad by a tech company: Microsoft. The ad tries to cover the perspective of girl children, their dreams and ambitions. Starting with a beautiful question as what do they want to be, we see answers like cancer specialists and scientists. we see how they are shown a glimpse of a working prototype of their future via the virtual reality headset. At the end, a donning image of the statistical information is shown with the graduation percentage of women from STEM fields being as low as 6.7%. The motive was to educate children and show them the future without directly stating the reasons. After researching the ad further, I found out that there were several reasons why this ad was formatted following a sequential order of questioning, getting an answer, giving an opportunity to look into the future, a shocking but truthful reality check and then the final reaction to the revelations made. This was interesting as it manages to appeal to the viewers conscience and inculcates a never say attitude in children. The ad was not only promoting its support to women and its product but was also inspirational and served as an eye opener.

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Microsoft: Make what’s next ad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5soEtBwH0Y )

This artifact or primary source highlights the change in the women popular culture depicts women today. It shows how female children are given an opportunity to experiment and see their options before deciding what they want to pursue for a career. Today women have their own groups and organizations that promote women empowerment and have the ability to create sustainable job opportunities for themselves.

A second deeper thought on this:

The secondary sources in my view served as an extension to these movies, TV shows and ads that portrayed working women and show how they were impacting their professional ambitions and dreams.

I used three main sources as my secondary sources and their titles are self-explanatory and serve as a mirror to the situation. The articles or journals include:

  1. Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?
  2. Women in Technology: The Evolution of a Simple Program That Works
  3. TechnoCapitalism Meets TechnoFeminism: Women and Technology in a Wireless World

In all the three articles above, the keys points highlighted are the hostile environment women need to fight and the impact it has on their career curve and growth. They show the grief and the impact of the unsustainable work environment and the unwelcoming sarcasm that exists around women. Some famous stereotypes that are often talked about are that women are instinctively dumb and need more time to process and react to situations and they cannot be the final decision authorities or need review before final approval. All these traits or assumptions have been shown in the movies/ shows as well and these articles and journals restate these issues and have shown how women have started to create a stronger community to support and fight these obstacles.

These artifacts and journals highlight how women are constantly coming up with their self-created job opportunities where they have the freedom to express their views and execute their plans without any judgement or obstacles. Women empowerment, self-confidence and decisiveness to achieve are some qualities that we see in women today. Though there still remains plenty of hurdles for women the world has become a little more accepting towards woman entrepreneurs but the growth rate either stagnates or gradually increases based om the disruptive job market and extensive gender inequality.

Conclusion:

From the above analysis, we can see how the portrayal of women in the media has flourished. Initially women were either depicted taking care of their children at home or doing strenuous mechanical jobs or non-technical jobs but now there is a great emphasis on women in tech as seen in the Microsoft ad and in the recent business school studies. Though this transition is great and has managed to stimulate and persuade women to join STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, there is still a barrier in the actual job market that awaits them. The hostile environment makes it more difficult for women to secure their jobs despite their genuine talent. Today there is a 2% increase in the number of women in technology. Though we have multiple organizations that try to get in more women into the techno commercial world, the results and figures would look better if they were welcomed and understood in a better way. Getting rid of the stereotypical image of how women engineers are, would make their stint in the tech industry longer and more effective. They would be more successful and would discover great breakthroughs in the industry.

Learning moments:

  • One of the most valuable resources that was a learning moment for me was the weekly reading assignment where we were required to describe the article/ video without any personal judgement. It taught me how to keep away my personal thoughts to ideologies related to any topic prior to observing and documenting the facts analytically.
  • Another learning moment or resource was the annotated bibliography and the research analysis worksheet where the primary and secondary sources were listed and a relation between the topic and the sources was established. The importance of having different kinds of sources and extracting information from them to serve as evidence was understood at that point.

Citations:

  1. Wajcman, Judy. “TechnoCapitalism Meets TechnoFeminism: Women and Technology in a Wireless World.” Labour & Industry: A Journal of the Social and Economic Relations of Work 16.3 (2006): 7-20. PSU Library. Web.
  2. Mundy, Liza. “Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 05 Apr. 2017. Web.
  3. Crumb, Jean Marie|Fenton Ray. “Women in Technology: The Evolution of a Simple Program That Works.” ERIC – Education Resources Information Center. N.p., 26 Apr. 1984. Web.
  4. F. (2016, August 14). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK8xHq6dfAo
  5. M. (2017, March 07) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjahbGqZu6U

 

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2 thoughts on “Women in technology and the perceptions that exist around them

  1. Hi Gomathy,
    I really enjoyed your essay, because I have seen many stereotypes of this group in the media. I especially liked reading about the movie Hidden Figures, because I wanted to see it but have not had the change. I think its a really good example of how smart women are oppressed in the STEM fields. Hopefully I’ll watch it soon!
    -Miriah

  2. Hi Gomathy,
    I really liked your blog post it was really informative and detail and for that, I learned more information about Women in Technology and the perceptions that exist around them.
    In one of your example was Hidden Figure. I have to say that was a great movie that I really liked. It analyzed the lack of acknowledgment that women got at that time, and probably even before that, but also showed the strength that women fought in order to be part of the NASA, even though time and time again they were not treated as a member. Although this stereotype of the female in the technology is fading, at least to my knowledge there are still more data or information that proves me wrong and your essay clearly tells me that.

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