Where Have All the Women Gone?

10.11.13

Sometime around 1980 LAUSD opened it’s first computer magnet. My mother ran the computer lab. She didn’t have much in the way of a budget for networking but she did have kids. Mom and my brother spent weekends “making the phone talk to the computer” and ultimately networked with an elementary school in Russia where they video conferenced.

To give this all context AOL launched in 1983.

We know there’s a dearth of women in programming, engineering, math and other sciences and academics often try to explain why. Sandberg asks us all to Lean In, I’m not convinced that explains much. Marissa Meyer is a C level fashionista who declines maternity leave and is alternately seen as a heroine or nemesis by feminists. Neither woman is particularly relevant to my life as a freelancer so I find myself distant from those conversations.

I do work in tech and most often I work with and for men. I love when I’m hired by a woman because there’s a particular joy for me in knowing that women are reaching managerial levels and have budgets to include me. I am then saddened that I find it odd that women are at these levels. I love all that WITI (Women in Technology International) has to offer. I am disheartened that we need women’s groups.

This morning I went to a meeting at Alexander’s school. They’re creating a new technology curriculum and have formed a parent committee to advise. I showed up to a room full of men and was shocked. We’re talking about a K-8 school. At it’s most advanced an elementary tech curriculum will include creating a basic website using some HTML and full use of the Office Suite. Middle school is different. By middle school the kids should be exploring and finding ways to break and repair both their computers and it’s software, but I often find myself alone in believing those are good uses of time and resources.

In a school where upwards of 90% of the communication is handled via a website or email I find it curious that women aren’t interested in how technology will be implemented. Are we naturally end users? Is the gala just more interesting? I’m also the room parent at this school and have been for a number of years. I’ve never seen a father be a room parent yet we cannot call ourselves “Room Mom”.

Sometimes I feel like there are wars to be waged around girls and STEM. Booth Babes are disappearing from conferences (thank goodness) and women are rising in the ranks (not en masse but they are rising).

There is no such thing as a job without technology. I don’t care if you’re a doctor, ditch digger, interior designer or a stay at home parent. Technology has invaded our lives for better and for worse. I’m wondering what it is about the XX’s that makes us believe we aren’t interested and I’m deeply concerned that someone will tell my daughter she shouldn’t be.