Being a Woman in Tech

The theme for this years Women’s History Month is celebrating women of character, courage and commitment.  This post seeks to explore that theme through the lens of women in technology.

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, as of late I have been asked the question, “What is it like being a woman in technology?”

12162863_sAt first I was taken aback by the question.  It was not a conscious effort or decision to enter myself into an industry that appears to distinguish between genders.  I also don’t consider myself a tech-y or tech expert.  I look at my research rooted in technology, however social media communication platforms are byproducts of advances in greater systems themselves.

At the same time, I realize being a woman is a salient part of my identity and in the larger field of technology, a female presence is still growing.  I also must say technology is more than just social media.  However, it is also the most accessible means to bridge conversations around technology.

So basically, what I am saying is, now I get it.  It is an exciting time to be a woman in technology, especially in higher education.  I feel empowered and supported greatly by others, but also responsible to recognize and lift up others around me.

I understand why I get asked.  If anything, being a woman researching technology is allowing my voice to strengthen everyday.  Means of technology, like getting an education, is an equalizer.  If you have a blog or twitter account, no matter your gender, age or title on campus, you can express your views to the world.  And if they are quality, they will be read and shared.

Considering my research interests, exploring experiences of female college students on social media has produced mixed results, as found in the following:

When looking at gender differences and acceptance of online technologies in higher education, Huang, Hood and Yoo (2013) also showed that females exhibited higher anxiety levels from blogs, wikis, and online games.  However, this anxiety is not detracting them from usage.  In a longitudinal study in Norway, Brandtzaeg (2012) looked at usage and social implications.  Over time, females used social media much more for socializing than men.  This was also confirmed in an earlier report, showing overall females were more likely than males to use social media (Ahn, 2011).

The next year, another study by Pettijohn, LaPiene, Pettijohn and Horting (2012) looked at the relationship between Facebook and well-being of college students.  In this study, males had less Facebook friends and spent less time online as compared to college women.  However, higher usage for females has been shown to cause challenges, where Thompson and Lougheed (2012) explored gender differences through SNSs for college students.  Results revealed that females report more stress over Facebook, including anxiety, being upset, losing control, and also losing sleep.  At the same time they were drawn to it because it allows them to express feelings.

These mixed and limited results, call for (of course) the need for more research.  And again, this is only the social media side of the women in technology story.  Young girls are discouraged from tech, science and math-like subjects all the time, before they even has access to social media.  How can we set them up for more options, rooted in technology?

In a recent article on, Regina Argare one of Ghana’s first female tech entrepreneurs, who used to work in Information Technology stated, “I found technology to be very lonely since I was always the only female in the IT department.”  Regina went on to list five reasons why tech needs more geek girls, find those reasons (here).

We do need more women in all areas of technology.  From start-ups, coding, social media, research and online education design.  And when in these roles, we need to support each other.  Another article recently highlighted the need for edtech women to lean-in and on each other (found here).

Responding to this call, I would like to feature a number of women both in higher education and beyond who are in or around some version of tech.  Those that contribute to their slice of technology, collectively making our voices stronger at the table.  I offer a screenshot of their twitter profiles, which also adds to the depth of breadth of their professional and personal blended lives living out online.

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Do you have others to add?  I’d love to keep adding to this list, building on the mission of women’s history month to celebration, character, courage and commitment.


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And Me!

Additional Resources

Women on YouTube you should follow :

SWSW EDU recommendations for women to follow :

Read Student Affairs Women Talk Tech :

There are also resources anyone should be aware of, even if you aren’t interested in technology.  You can empower young girls and women to explore careers built around technology.

Follow me on Twitter @josieahlquist

For all content cited on this post, explore {here} for all references I have used on my blog.

*All images purchased from

One Response to Being a Woman in Tech

  1. Rushda June 27, 2014 at 2:39 am #

    hi Josie

    As with all countries, we in South Africa have to adhered to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa regarding the rights of all people, chapter 2 of the constitution promotes the rights of all people of South Africa and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

    The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) views equity management as a strategic intervention with the goal of promoting equity and the development of diversity within the Institution, aimed at enhancing multiculturalism, non-racism in our epistemology, governance, business practises, and external engagement endeavours.

    The NMMU is situated in the friendly city of Port Elizabeth, on the south coast of South Africa, a small town with a big heart!!!

    With that as policy of the NMMU, I would like to introduce 2 ladies that are forerunners, within the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology. There are definitely others within the institution but I work with these 2 ladies and would like to add them to your list of women in technology.

    Professor Dalenca Pottas, is the Director of School of Information and Communication Technology, her expertise are in Information security governance, Information security management and IT learnerships. She holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg). Her research interests turned to Health Informatics in 2004 and since then she has established the Health Informatics Research Group (HIRG) in the School of ICT, with 10 master’s and doctoral students (during 2011) studying in this area. Her current research interests include information security (in the healthcare context), ICT solutions in community home-based care and participatory approaches for health information systems design and development.
    Prof Pottas continues to run the School of ICT making valued contributions towards the Institution, the academia, the students (both current and prospective) and the community at large.

    Professor Darelle van Greunen is a Professor and the Research Group Leader of the User Experience Group at the Institute for ICT Advancement at the NMMU. Her expertise are, User Experience, User Interface Design, Impact Assessment, Rural communities, Living Labs, eHealth, Health Informatics, ICT4D, ICT for Socio Economic Development.

    She advised as a Senior Researcher for SAP Research on User Experience and User Interface Design from 2006 to 2011. Her background is multidisciplinary, combining computer science, information systems, African languages, education, media studies and psychology. She specializes in human computer interaction and user experience, reflected in an extensive publication record as well as in industry project involvement. she has published extensively and is invited regularly as keynote speaker at international and national conferences, as well as to participate in radio interviews on the topic of usability and user experience and to explain to the public the importance of usability and user experience when using technology.

    She was invited to give a public lecture to the Finnish mobile industry in Helsinki during October 2010 and to present a workshop on user experience in the developing world to researchers from Aalto University (Finland) and Nokia Research. Her research is regarded as trend setting in the international user experience and human computer interaction community as it focuses on the opportunities and challenges provided by the use of technology in the developing world and more specifically on new and innovative technologies.

    She is regarded by her international peers as one of the leading researchers on user experience in developing countries. The number of international and multidisciplinary projects that she is involved in, is testimony to this fact and they are:
    1. Emmanuel Haven Living Lab
    The NMMU-Emmanuel Haven Living Lab ecosystem was established in November 2011 in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth. Following that, a computer laboratory infratructure was installed with the computer laboratory becoming operational in June 2012.

    2. FamHealth – NMMU Youth Leadership Academy.

    3. Khoekhoegowab – research project

    4. Makerere University in Uganda, she was a keynote speaker at the 6th Annual International Conference on Computing and ICT Research.

    I am in awe of these ladies for their contribution and commitment to the field of technology. this is an every changing domain and they are continuing to make strinds within this field.

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