Do You Help Your Daughter or Your Son?


Last night at dinner Jane regaled us with a story where a male classmate told her to get out of the computer lab, “It’s for boys.” And she went on to other things at warp speeds (as 15 year old girls often do) when I had to give her a, “Whoa, whoa, back up! What did you say to this kid?”

“Nothing. I just finished my program first and asked him if needed any help.” And then she rolled her eyes and went back to talking about whatever it was that she had moved on to.

She’s aware that she’s the only girl in the room at times and one of only a few girls most other times but she’s never felt unwelcome (and still doesn’t). Top down there doesn’t seem to be any difference between boys and girls.

So when a teacher creates a lovely environment and a school gives every child every opportunity and then a little boy tells a girl she doesn’t belong in a computer lab what are we to do?

To be clear my daughter was not bothered by this. She just mentioned it as an example of why she doesn’t like this boy, not as an example of his empowerment or a trend at the school.

This isn’t a women’s issue. This is a kid’s issue. What are we telling our boys? How are we teaching them? When they see memes like Make Me a Sammich do we tell them that those are the young men with short careers ahead of them?

Via Know Your Meme

There seem to be two prominent boy cultures right now. One being the Nerd/Gamer/Geek culture which is emerging from deep roots in misogony and the other is sports which has it’s own issues. I have a lot of hope for tech (no clue about gaming because I’m simply not immersed). When you look at the leaders in technology and see men around my age with great early success know that there’s a good chance that they began in porn. I’m not saying this to out anyone or cause trouble but rather to explain that 20 years ago when people were building networks and sites the most profitable ones revolved around women showering in front of webcams. It was a boy’s club because how many women wanted to be the only one in the room with her clothes on? And the women that did work in porn production were a special hybrid of smart and tough.

As the older guys phase out I have no explanation for how a child could believe that computers are for boys. I certainly hope that no one tells my son that history is for girls. He happens to love it.

My daughter doesn’t seem to need any help feeling like STEM is for her. All parents talk about anymore is the importance of STEM, almost to the point of completely ignoring the humanities. Mercifully this talk is limited to parents who are school shopping (or hopping as the case may be) and not the sort of talk I hear from teachers and academics.

Having both a daughter and a son I’m finding that there really are no girls issues or boys issues.

Meanwhile the US Department of Labor put out this webinar for women and STEM (where women hold just 25% of the jobs).

I don’t really have any answers but I have a lot of questions.

Where Have All the Women Gone?


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.