I asked 125 young women if they felt that technology was important to their lives. 97% said YES.
I asked the same 125 young women if they were interested in technology. 73% said YES.
I asked the same 125 if they were interested in technology given the most popular definition that pops up when you Google ‘technology’, i.e: “the branch of knowledge concerned with engineering or applied sciences”.
The percentage dropped to 50%.
The variable was the definition. And — you’re going to stare at me right now and say: Of course. Kids who don’t do science, women who don’t have an inclination towards engineering or big data or mathematics theory — those people who we need to be involved will be the same people who are going to feel excluded.
Congratulations! You’ve identified the first problem that clicked when I looked through my survey results and the difference in experiments. It’s about the high barriers that seem to exist, hiding the possibility of women venturing into technology and being the conveyer and designer of the digital world behind high walls created by limiting definition.
But have you seen the second issue?
I didn’t at first. It was only after I took a step back and went meta. I’d designed these little survey panels myself, so I went back to the digital board. That was when my hand nudged my mouse and the cursor accidentally deleted the Googled definition of ‘technology’, rendering the panel blank once again with simply the question: “Are you interested in technology?”
Then the second thing clicked into place.
Even presenting a definition to someone contaminates their mind. It restricts their view because you’ve scooped out the bit of scope they could have imagined and left the narrowed-down version for them to think from. You’ve cut out a new drawing board from a smaller board of wood than what they could have previously felt in their hands.
To fully enable our women to imagine and feel the weight of several different possibilities and passions in an industry that has been previously dominated by men, we need to stretch the definition until it’s something that is fully flexible with current developments and pursuits of change and impact that we are trying to make.
I’ve spent the past few weeks before and after the survey doing my own research on technology, on being immersed in the digital world, on different branches that come together under the umbrella of ‘tech’.
And it’s growing. But if my mission is to enable women to be creative with technology, because it really empowers us to do so — then, I figured that my research and sharing of learning had to be as living, as breathing as vibrant as these women.
I wanted to highlight my WITs, the women in tech who carve out their own spaces in the digital world harnessing technology. I sought to honour those whose passion and talent raced along tracks other than STEM, other than our conventional categorisations.
It’s not enough to know an aspect of tech and appreciate it’s importance. Let’s grow with it and aim to be creative with our knowledge, together.
WITs is a column that goes beyond what we already know, MIRRORING the benefits we have of living in a digital world — that any one user can go beyond what they already know by accessing different portals, resources, and people. I want to celebrate that.
Thank you for reading ❤ and I’m glad that technology allowed me, a young woman, to reach out to you in a variety of different ways.