Monday, January 21, 2008

On Women in the Technology Industry

Gender is a very interesting topic especially in the technology industry. In a male dominated industry, it is very interesting how women enter the industry or even respond to technology online. “Given that the Internet began as a masculine technoculture, it has traditionally seemed unfriendly – or directly intimidating – to women… Nola Alloway’s (1995) research indicates that ‘even three-year-old boys in pre-school insist that the computers are the boys’ territory, and the girls are verbally and physically driven away” [Green 184]. First, I will give an example of how women in the technology industry are perceived.

From the various tech websites that I frequent, the claims are that technology seems unfriendly to women are only validated. Here is one from Kotaku. The first 5 comments give a general idea of how a woman in the technology (and possible worst, the gaming) industry is perceived. While I was growing up, it was not uncommon to be playing an online game and for all the guys say “you are a girl?” or “it’s a girl!”. I myself was found myself rather surprised that a girl would be playing a rather technical game. After all, it has been shown that women tend to gravitate towards puzzle type games. Trying a search on Google for “games girls”, JD and I found the top results were “cooking games, adventure games, dress up games, makeover games, skill games, fashion games”. Anyone notice a pattern here? On the other hand, we have other women in the gaming industry who talk about how there has been change over time. Within the industry, Elspeth Tory (a project manager for Ubisoft) says that men in the industry are much more accepting of women. However, it is the public eye which makes being a woman in the industry more difficult.

JD and I talked about what fuels these misconceptions about women in the technology industry. What we agreed on is that to change the idea that women are not as capable as men in developing new technology, there must be a gradual change. The role of Jade Raymond, Elspeth Tory, and other women in the industry is a double-edged sword, but at the same time places them in a unique position. For Jade Raymond, constantly in the public eye of gamers, she is often sexualized by the predominantly male audience, but at the same time, her game has grabbed the attention of many gamers. In many ways, this serves as a test for all women in the industry because this is probably the first time a woman has been placed in the role of director of a video game (which no one would classify as a “girlie-game”). Elspeth Tory (interviewed here) describes growing acceptance of women in the gaming industry, but there is a difference between what peers within the industry think and what the general public thinks. Discussing this with JD, we found some statistics about women in the gaming industry. There are actually very few in the production process. I would take from Green’s quote that women are losing interest at an early age because of the fact that boys tend to believe computers are their territory. I believe that some of the problem lies in the characters in the games. As a child, I would play as Mario trying to save Princess Peach. I am put in the role of a male, to which a girl probably will not relate to as well. Until people can begin to accept women in the gaming industry, women will continue to shy away from video games. It is going to take women in high positions to begin to show that women can be gamers too. The change for women in the industry is coming though. The technology-dependent culture which we live is fairly young, starting to flourish in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Green claims that “with so many more people – including women and children – involved in the Internet, the hi-tech/leading edge area of computer use from Internet access and use per se to Web design and security” [188]. The technoculture started as male-dominated, but it looks as though change is possible in the near future.

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