I’ve recently read Little Miss Geek: Bridging The Gap Between Girls And Technology by Belinda Parmar. I read it because I felt that, as a woman having worked as either a software developer, or a development team leader for almost 20 years, I should read it and see what resonates and what aggrevates. Also because it was mentioned at the most recent She Says Brighton, which was, appropriate enough about development.
I found the book to be well-written and full of references, allowing me to go and read more about the statements made. I didn’t find it too feminist - which was one of my concerns. I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in technology, regardless of their gender, as a lot of the points apply to children of both genders, not just girls.
Here are some of the highlights I made on my kindle:
Only 17% of the technology workforce in this country is female, and yet women buy 40% of all technology products. Only 4% of all games developers are female despite women now playing 55% of all ‘casual’ games.
Most gadgets have ceased to become gadgets - they’re now just ‘things’.
certainly, my 6 year old neice doesn’t consider the iPad she sits and interacts with as a computer, it’s definitely just a thing
It’s not that women are any more effective or more talented than men - but they do provide different experiences and ask different questions.
which should be the same argument for any diversity. Diversity is a good thing, different backgrounds, different considerations etc
While a man is more likely to be attracted to qualities like stability, reputation, salary and career progression, a woman is more likely to chase down a job she feels will interest and stimulate her intellectually.
which I thought was interesting, especially from a Maslov’s hierarchy of needs perspective
The negative stereotype is self-perpetuating. If girls grow up in a world that tells them they are worse than boys at maths and technology, then those girls will believe that they are worse at maths and technology.
given the choice of toys, boys are instantly attracted to cars and construction kits (systemizing toys), while more girls than boys will go for dolls, enacting social and emotional themes.
Did boys play with Lego because they were better systemizers or did they become better systemizers because they always played with Lego?
Extended play with a toy like Lego can make a huge difference to problem solving abilities, something that pays dividends years down the line in lab work and design.
three-dimensional video games have been shown to enhance mental rotation, as well as proving very useful when it comes to building skills in computing and design.
And here’s my note on this section:
Note: maybe my tetris playing paid dividends after all!
As a smallish child, one of my Christmas presents from Father Christmas (for some reason I always got one present per year labelled as being from Father Christmas rather than from my parents - I have no idea why) was a big box of lego. I have no siblings, so it was all for me. I remember playing with it quite a lot, both with my Dad, and alone. I remember demanding that my parents helped me sort the colours, so that I could build structurally sound yet pleasing-to-the-eye buildings. I also remember being shocked when an older girl came to play with me and she didn’t know how to build the walls of her house so that they were stable - she just used columns of bricks, whilst mine interlocked like in a normal house (Thanks Dad!)
And then on the education bit:
ICT holds very little academic respect among students and parents alike - something that has, no doubt, led to a sixty-seven percent decline in the number of students taking ICT GCSE, from 244,835 in 2004 to only 80,440 in 2011.
Since 2004 there has been a fifty-three percent reduction in overall numbers taking computing A-Level in the UK.
when they get to university - though girls account for fifty-six percent of higher-education applicants across all subjects, they make up just fourteen percent where Computer Science and I.T. related subjects are concerned.
On the Computing/ICT A level thing, the overall numbers of people doing an A level in a computing related subject is shocking
together computing and ICT entrants made up only 1.7 percent of all A-levels sat in 2012
Considering how prevalent computers are in their various shapes and sizes this is a surprise to me. I hadn’t realised it had got so bad. Looking at the Guardian’s data for 2012 there were 3512 boys and 297 girls sitting Compyuting A level. That’s just 3,809. ICT had 6804 boys and 4284 girls, so a further 11,088 doing some form of IT related subject. The total A levels sat in 2012, across both genders, was 861,819. So those numbers really are pitiful.
See the companion post, How I became a developer - the education bit, for more about my own journey through computing related education.
And finally from my highlighted bits:
It’s vital in any industry to make an employee - male or female - feel like he/she is working from a position of strength.
Yes. Of course, it is. Regardless of gender.