The Importance of Teaching Boys About Bright Women

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On International Women’s Day, like many people, I will be reading books about heroines like Ada Lovelace to my daughter. But I will also read about them to my son.

the Few people, big dreams the books began their lives focusing on inspiring women such as Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, and Coco Chanel, to name a few.

It is important to read about inspiring women, like Ada Lovelace, for boys and girls. Image: Getty Images

They have since expanded to include men – Muhammad Ali, Stephen Hawking, and Martin Luther King.

The reason these books initially focused only on women was that the author wanted inspirational books for his nieces. She broadened this goal because “uniqueness also includes boys.”

While all children need role models they can relate to, the assumption that boys don’t want or need to hear from successful women is a real problem for successful women when these boys become men.

Statistics tell us that fields like philosophy, physics, and technology, where “brilliance” or “genius” are seen as key characteristics of successful people, are still hostile to women.

The “genius” gap is not that of performance, but that of perception. But what about the gender balance in tech?

We have seen a huge change from programming being seen as a “woman’s job” in the early days of computing, it is now an almost exclusive and increasingly male activity. If only men used or were affected by the technology, that wouldn’t be a problem.

This is not the case.

Programming is now seen as an almost exclusive and increasingly masculine activity. Image: Getty Images

The recent research I have worked on in collaboration with Dr Suelette Dreyfus, Professor Jeannie Paterson and Professor Shanton Chang is one of the many studies that show that women are disadvantaged by technology designed by (and arguably for ) Men: AI algorithms fail to recognize women’s voices, and advertise lower paying jobs and poorer housing stock to women.

Beyond artificial intelligence, social media platforms designed for men are dangerous for women; Amnesty International recently called Twitter “toxic” to women and girls.

So how did we get here?

We know that the bias starts very early, at school age. Boys are more likely to receive computers or technology as gifts than girls, and are more likely to have men in their family who craft them by their side.

The focus on “genius” creates a hyper-focused stereotype of the “brogrammer” who is less likely to appeal to women and girls. As young people reach college age, there is a gap in confidence and interest that means few women are starting tech degrees and fewer are completing them.

Even after graduation, women find it difficult to secure venture capital for startups, and when working for other people, they leave the field at much higher rates than men due to a lack of satisfaction with their work environment and lack of promotion opportunities.

Boys are more likely to receive computers or technology as gifts than girls. Image: Getty Images

There are now many efforts to measure and solve these problems.

Many programs encourage women and girls to consider careers in IT and overcome the obstacles they face. Some techniques, such as designing for real impact in curricula, creating a cohort experience for women, and supporting novice programmers to build their confidence away from their more expert peers are good. known.

Others are less clear and are being researched (for example) by Dr Melissa Rogerson, Associate Professor Jenny Waycott and Associate Professor Nic Geard in collaboration with Google, right here at the University of Melbourne.

Still other efforts, such as my own work with Dr George Buchanan and Huiwen Zhang, began to measure the progress of women in computing.

In academic human-machine interaction (an area where women are generally well represented), we have noticed that women attend local conferences at similar rates to men, but their publication rates decline at international conferences. , notably as co-authors.

This indicates a situation where men are more likely to be invited to a team than women.

The metric is important because it gives us a baseline and a way to determine who is trying to work things out – which is part of why many large companies are now releasing diversity reports. It also allows shareholders to hold companies to account, as they did with Apple.

The “genius” focus creates a hyper-focused “brogrammer” stereotype. Image: Getty Images

Other researchers, including Dr Kobi Leins, Dr Marc Cheong and Dr Simon Coghlan, have shown that women are more disadvantaged in highly technical fields and have promoted an ‘ethics of care’ approach to address this problem. – that is, organizations take moral and legal responsibility for the representation and experiences of women.

The only area we don’t cover, however, is men’s computer literacy.

It’s the male venture capitalists who don’t fund women, and the male programmers who exclude women from their teams. Men are the CEOs of all the big tech companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Snap), and they sign (or don’t sign) the codes of conduct.

While the most egregious abuses are addressed (such as engineer Google, James Damore’s missive on why straight white men are the best programmers), the culture that facilitates these abuses remains.

We can promote tech careers to women whatever we love, but if the men who are currently the gatekeepers of those careers don’t make room for women, we will ultimately only have women with broken careers and hearts. broken because they bend over, and dealing with their “impostor syndrome” (which is actually a systemic bias) is just not enough.

So what can we do? Well, if the culture of IT starts in school, so does a culture of accepting women.

Boys need to hear and talk about female heroes in order to “make room” for them later. Image: Getty Images

Besides teaching our girls that they can code, we also need to teach our boys that. I do this by reading inspiration from people of all genders to my two children: in the beginning it was my set of Value tales 1980s, but now we’re moving into Little People: big dreams and the Extraordinary lives books.

Together we read about Alan Turing, of course, but also Ada Lovelace and Katherine Johnson, alongside many other inspiring women and men outside of tech.

I also tell them about the lost women of tech, like Karen Sparck Jones, who did the founding work of modern search engines, and Klara von Neumann, who did the work behind almost every weather application that we do. use today.

While I am just an anecdote, in my house, my approach works.

When my eight-year-old son heard me tell the story of a conference incident where women were unfavorably compared to a computer game (an incident that would now be dealt with under the code of conduct), he told me. asked “why would he say that?” It is quite simply false and very rude ”.

By normalizing bright women, we make room for them. And in order to do that, we need to talk not only to our daughters, but also to our sons.

This article first appeared on Pursuit. Read the original article.


READ MORE:

‘He had hundreds of pictures of me’: stories of sexism from female teachers in elite boy schools


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