Autores: Ash Narain Roy y Jisha Jacob*
The Nobel Prize, says Annie Ernaux, Laureate of Literature in 2022, is an institution “for men”. She even says that "discourse was almost always monopolized by men." If even the renowned Nobel laureate remains "linked to traditions" and "perhaps more masculine", as the French writer affirms, what about the world of science and big tech?
The tech industry remains a masculine stronghold. Citing the extremely low percentage of female employees, theNew York TimesShe says that the doors to the field of technology "remain virtually closed to women."Los Angeles Timeshas similar observations about sexism in Silicon Valley. He says the tech industry "lags behind other industries in its treatment of women."
Big tech is much worse. Elon Musk, the new head of Twitter, often mocks followers of the LGBT+ community. No one knows where women will find themselves in his scheme of things. He perhaps expected women to "follow the white rabbit." (It is assumed that if you follow the white rabbit, it will lead you to the truth.) Or you can enter an alternate world. Musk is not playing "four-dimensional chess", he is defending "the future of civilization"!
Emily Chang in her book,Brotopia: Dismantling the Silicon Valley Boys' Club,says the big-tech industry "self-selected for men: anti-social nerds first, self-assured, risk-taking brothers second." It's no wonder, therefore, that "entrenched sexism" is prevalent in his universe and that his encounters in hot tubs and strip clubs are considered small.'sins'.
That women are underrepresented and have far fewer organizational roles at major tech companies like Meta, Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft is an open secret. As Francine Bermen and Jeniffer Lundquist say, a large number of high-profile whistleblowers are women. “Frances Haugen exposed the exploitation of personal data at Meta, Timnit Gebru and Rebecca Rivers challenged Google on ethics and artificial intelligence issues, and Janneke Parrish expressed her concerns about a discriminatory workplace culture at Apple, among others..” (Bermen, Francine and Jennifer Lundquist, 2022)
"Why can't a woman be like a man?" It's been a plaintive refrain in most walks of life. Literature, science, cinema and politics have perpetuated these perceptions. In the footnote to his famous lecture, "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution," the eminent British scientist C.P. Snow said that from childhood women are trained to be a "good wife" and a "good mother." He further said that women lack the training to become good scientists or physicists. But he ended by saying "whatever we say, we do not consider women suitable for scientific careers", for which today he would have been heavily criticized. (Snow 1959) Technology is widely considered to be a male-dominated industry. Bryant University psychologist Janet Morahan-Martin explains that men are more comfortable using a computer from childhood than women. This exposure to technology early in their lives has led to the masculinization of computer culture.
Great technology and masculinity
What is masculinity? Does this really have to do with technology? In a broader sense, masculinity refers to how men perceive themselves. It is a way of thinking and forming socially. Victor J. Seidler, from the University of London, offers an interesting explanation, postulating that men assumed rationality as masculine from an "appropriate rationality denied to others." Men have made it the basis of male power by "affecting what men see, hear, and consider important." Brian Easlea, in his bookBreeding the Unthinkable: Masculinity, Scientists and the Nuclear Arms Race,argues that men's propensity for science was primarily a “compensatory mechanism” for their inability to procreate and their sexual vulnerability. (Easlea 1983)
Power and masculinity go hand in hand. The idea of masculinity is often associated with gaining more and more power. Men are now at the top of the technological pyramid thanks to this power. It seems that the use of power is fundamentally unbalanced. Men undoubtedly make the important decisions. Whenever scientists are mentioned, "men" is always used as a pronoun. For example, C. P. Snow referred to members of scientific communities as "scientists." Men are, therefore, at the top of the technological pyramid.
Lucie Greene, author ofSilicon States: The Power of Big Tech Politics and What It Means for Our Future,He cites the examples of Siri, Alexa, and all the subservient verbal assistants that normalize sexism. Twitter has an appalling record of not dealing with misogyny. Amnesty International called the women's experience on Twitter “toxic”. Women continue to be victims of “digital violence”.
According to one source, women make up about 25% of the tech workforce. When it comes to senior corporate leadership roles, the less said the better. Only 8.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and less than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
OGoogle UK: 2018 Gender Pay Reportsays there are more men than women working at Google in leadership and technical occupations. leading technology companies. Men are more likely than women to hold leadership positions. Only four women appear in a random Google search of the top 48 tech companies.
gender stereotypical technology
Masculinization has produced what is known as gender stereotyped technology. It is crucial that women work in a predominantly male industry. When designing, it must be taken into account who designs a product and who earns from it. Men can design a product used primarily by women, which can result in an inferior design. It may not meet the specifications set for technology that women can use. A woman of average height, for example, can't reach the bottom of the washing machine tub to get the clothes out. Another outdated example is the fact that, since the 1970s, crash test dummies used to assess car safety have been modeled on males for an average male height and weight. It has only now been fixed. This digital world needs more women designers because it is mostly created by men for men.
Ironically, the first programmers were not men, but women. The 1940s saw computer programming and operation as a female space. In the 1960s, when computing rose to prominence, men replaced women who were experts, and as Marie Hicks states in her book,programmed inequality,the space went from being a “feminized playing field” to a “clearly masculine image”. (Hicks 2018)
According to data provided byPlanet Money: NPR, the presence of women in various fields clearly shows that while medicine, law, and physical sciences had a significant increase in the number of enrolled female students after 1984, science and technology had a sharp decline in the number of female students. There was a noticeable increase between 1975 and 1984, but the trend didn't last long as women were pushed out of cyberspace.
The women had to learn how to use the room-sized supercomputers the US used to break codes during World War II. A person who programmed the first general-purpose electronic computer during World War II was known as a "computer." The women were portrayed as confident, attractive, and ready to do their part to win the war. They were encouraged to enter the workforce, glorifying and exalting the role of the working woman.
Women made up a significant part of the technological workforce during World War II and well into the 1960s. They made important contributions to science and technology.
The impact of STEM education
Women make up about 43% of all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) graduates in India, one of the highest percentages in the world, but only 14% of scientists, engineers and technicians in universities and organizations of research and development. (Economic Times 2022) The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields is a problem worldwide, but the case of India is curious, despite an increase in the number of female STEM students each year, these levels of education The Higher education did not lead to increased job opportunities.
The lack of job opportunities led them to seek other paths. Clinical psychologist Joy Harris describes this phenomenon as "learned technological helplessness." (Harris 2008)
Studies have shown that girls decide if they are good at math or science between the ages of 8 and 10. It is essential to provide them with the right opportunities at this young age.
The data also shows that the disparity deepens at the undergraduate level. They prefer psychology, biological and social sciences to engineering (22%), computer science (20%) and physics (21%). Similarly, in the STEM workforce, women do not show much interest compared to men. They have a very low participation in computer science and mathematics (26%) and engineering (16%).
Even in normal times, women carry what sociologist Arlie Hochschild calls "the double burden." Although they work for a living, they do a significant amount of unpaid household chores. According to a survey conducted in 2022, up to 58% of Indian women lost their jobs mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Women have been pushed out of the business sector thanks to the increase in housework. (Sethi 2022) This was also the time when people showed a greater reliance on technology than ever before. Most jobs required workers to be tech-savvy. The gender gap in the economy has also worsened because of the pandemic.
The rise in domestic violence has further accentuated the disparity. According to one source, 1 in 3 women worldwide have suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of an intimate relationship. As a result, women were being abused and looking for employment options. (UN Women: Gender equality matters in response to COVID-19)
During the worst of Covid and after, some people started using social media to share their daily emotions, allowing them to connect with others who share their perspectives. According to the Statista portal, in January 2022, Snapchat had more female users, while platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter had more male than female users. According to another source, men use LinkedIn more frequently compared to women, which are 54% and 44% respectively.
The active presence of women on social media platforms has made them vulnerable to abuse and threats of various kinds.
Online gender-based violence (OGBV) is perpetrated using technology or a digital interface, specifically the Internet or smart devices. Cyber bullying, zoom bombing, identity theft, online threats, blackmail, and cyber flashing are known forms of gender-based violence online. According to the toolkit, 85% of women worldwide face GBV online. 88% of women in Asia and the Pacific had OGBV. (Toolkit: 30 by 2030 UN Women 2022)
Research on online violence against women by Amnesty International suggests that 70% of women who have experienced some form of harassment online have changed the way they use social media, with a third of them saying they no longer does not express his thoughts on certain topics.
The Nordic countries score higher than others on the gender equality benchmarks. While Sweden scores top marks for perceived gender equality, Norway outperforms all other nations in terms of income equality. This was possible because the Nordic nations established a greater degree of political consensus around issues such as social equality and social solidarity. They pay women in tech more than others. Like the 2018 OECD report, “Is the last mile the longest? Economic gains from gender equality in the Nordic countries”, she points out, it is this region's past improvements in gender equality in employment that have “contributed to economic growth”. Despite the global reputation of the Nordic nations, they continue to have gender differences in technology. Anneli Häyren, a researcher at the Center for Gender Research at Uppsala University in Sweden, notes that there is an idea of gender equality, but "we have a long way to go before we are gender equal."
The Nordic gender effect at work, a report by the Nordic Council of Ministers, an advisory group, further notes that there has been "a disturbing pattern" in business: "the higher up the hierarchy you look, the more men you notice." This report raises serious concerns about the gender gap. Therefore, it is evident that even in societies where gender equality is the norm, women and other different gender groups may not necessarily be equally represented in all sectors, especially in technology.
Some academics argue that women are less likely to earn STEM degrees, even in countries where a culture of gender equality already exists. This pattern of behavior consists of teaching subjects to girls when they are very young. It has surprised many, such as Gijsbert Stoet, a professor at the University of Essex, who says: “It is a paradox…. no one would expect this to be the reality of our time.”
Maddy Savage's article for the BBC website, “The paradox of working for the world's most equal countries”, sounds intriguing. Even in Denmark, the world's most inclusive country, "mainly white men are at the top of many of the best-known corporations." One explanation is that women prefer to work in the public sector, which limits the pool available for high-level positions in the private sector.
Engineers and IT specialists are already in short supply on the Nordic job market. According to a study, it will soon be necessary to fix the problem because the new technology will be created almost entirely by men. In the Nordic labor market, women have established themselves in the service industry. According to the research, women benefit the most from the region's service industry, which accounts for 80% of all jobs.
Women in the tech industry continue to face a gendered and toxic environment. The so-called masculine technical prowess as an organizing principle marks the culture of work. As the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific points out, the existing underrepresentation of women in the technology industry is reinforcing social inequalities. “There is no point in talking about technological advances if half the population is being left behind.”
It is ironic that such gender inequalities exist as the world embarks on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Another worrying trend is that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected men and women differently, "exacerbating current asymmetries and risking reversing the progress made in closing the gender gap." Gender stereotypes have led to a gendered division of labor in the tech industry.
In 2021, the percentage of women in CEO roles globally was only 5.5% and in STEM fields it was only around 3%. One way forward would be a greater presence of women in STEM careers. This will not only reduce existing unsustainable disparities, but will encourage other women to follow suit.
Nalini Malani, a contemporary Indian artist whose creative works reflect pressing feminist issues, says that while science and technology have given us so much, allowing us to converse with each other across oceans, "the human psyche hasn't kept up." However, Malani is confident that “the future is female” and the world needs instinctive knowledge of the female side of our brains, “otherwise we are doomed”.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced that starting in February 2023, teens will only see ads based on their age and location. The company also announced that it will "remove gender as a targeting option." It may be too late, too little, but it is a welcome step. If the big tech companies don't correct themselves, they will be blamed for what Churchill criticized the Balkans: "they produce more history than they can consume." They will be judged by the new generation for showing their own shame.
*Jisha Jacob has a Masters in Political Science from the University of Delhi.