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?”
At 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 CNN.com, 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.
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.
Women on YouTube you should follow : https://www.sawomentalktech.com/blog/2014/01/23/10-females-to-follow-on-youtube/
SWSW EDU recommendations for women to follow : https://edtechwomen.com/blog/2014/2/23/announcing-the-edtechwomen-sxswedu-lightning-talk-series-at-the-helm-womens-impact-in-edtech
Read Student Affairs Women Talk Tech : https://www.sawomentalktech.com
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.
*All images purchased from https://www.123rf.com