Men are better at tech: Shattering the illusion
An article has emerged today on the Telegraph website with a title that could perhaps be pretty misleading. “Why men are better at Google than women” could easily lead many people to jump to certain conclusions about the nature of the article. Thankfully though, it’s not saying that men are superior at digital or tech but outlines various studies looking into the gender differences of internet search habits and why these differences could occur.
Despite the rather infuriating line “men are better at searching for information online”, the author does not argue that it is true, merely why people think they’ve found evidence to support it.
Puberty appears to have a significant effect on how one’s brain functions; the connections in male brains tend to run from front to back while women’s run side to side (between the two hemispheres for those who want to get technical). Although this outlines some fascinating biological differences between women and men, anyone who’s studied Psychology can tell you that the differences BETWEEN groups is far smaller than those WITHIN groups.
Generalising that men are suited to information processing is not only rubbish when you look at things on an individual basis but is clearly doing nothing to counteract the stereotypes of female and male careers. One of the most important facts highlighted in the article was that women only make up 17% of people in tech jobs. The author argues that since the search algorithms are likely created mainly by men, the search engines will therefore be more “male-friendly”. This could explain why studies have found men to be ‘better’ at searching for information online.
The differences found are clearly nothing to do with biological gender differences but a society that has enforced the idea that women aren’t as good in tech roles. Despite the seemingly sexist title, the article finishes with a wonderfully feminist line supporting the idea of gender equality in digital. We need more articles like this!
With that in mind, I’ve put together a short list of just some of the most memorable women in the history of technology that everyone should be aware of:
Everyone should know this name. Ada Lovelace was a British mathematician in the 1800’s who is recognised as the world’s first computer programmer. She was also the only (legitimate) child of the poet Lord Byron.
Admiral Grace Hopper
Grace Hopper has an incredible list of achievements that includes being one of the first female programmers and developing COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language). This impressive woman is also responsible for popularising the terms “bug” and “debugging”.
Yet another computer language founded by a woman; Jean Sammer developed FORMAC and was the first female president of the Association for Computing Machinery.
Karen Spärck Jones
A pioneer in information retrieval and natural language processing, Karen Jones played an incredibly important role in the development of search engines. My favourite quote from her is as follows:
“I think it’s very important to get more women into computing. My slogan is: Computing is too important to be left to men.”
Carol Shaw was the first ever female video game designer. Starting her career at Atari in the late 1970’s, Shaw was the only female in the office until Cara Meninsky joined the company.
This list shows just how fundamental the role of women has been in the development of the technological and digital world that we now know and love. Despite this, they rarely get the recognition that they deserve. Hopefully we can increase that 17% to 50% in the coming years and remind people of the great female digital pioneers that came before them.