Media Matters: How representation and cultural climate are contributing to the decline of women in computing Dr. Kim Surkan Program in Women’s and Gender Studies, MIT email@example.com
Media Consumption is Growing Children ages 8 to 18 spent an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day in 2010 consuming television/Internet media, up from 6:21 in 2004 (Kaiser FF)
Media Effects • Reinforcement (or rejection) of stereotypes • Symbolic annihilation • Lack of visible role models for women in STEM • Decreased self-esteem: TV exposure is positively correlated with self-esteem for young white boys, but negatively correlated with self esteem for young girls and African American children(Martins & Harrison, 2012)
Trend: Numbers of women in computing at BS level declining NSF data shows BS levels in computer science increased more rapidly between 1972 and 1984 than in any other STEM discipline. BUT. . . After 1984, CS was the ONLY one that has seen a decrease in the participation of women, a trend that continues to this day. (Hayes, in Gender Codes, 2010)
Masculinizing Computer Science: Emergence of the Nerd • Computer programming began as women’s work and had to be made masculine (Ensmenger, in Gender Codes, 2010) • 1940s – women worked in Bletchley Park and on the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) machine at UPenn. • “Software” as a term introduced later in 1958 but coding/programming was already associated in the 1940s with gendered connotations of appropriate work for women (as opposed to masculine associations with hardware) • “The popular association of computing culture with the ‘nerd’ stereotype is perhaps the most common explanation for low rates of participation among females. . . Eccentric, unkempt, antisocial – and male.” (Ensmenger, 137)
Sexism in Computer Culture • Rampant sexism and anti-feminism in many aspects of computer and gaming culture creates a hostile environment for women • Recruitment/Hiring • Hackathons • Sexual harassment and rape culture • Lack of role models & unwillingness of female success stories to identify with feminism
Bias in hiring reflects gender stereotypes about women in science and math
Sexism in Recruitment & Hiring • Image shift from geek to “brogrammer,” defined as “portmanteau of the frathouse moniker ‘bro’ and ‘programmer’” • Startup recruitment ads routinely list women as perks, use heterosexist language targeting male job candidates, and feature “booth babes” at tech career fairs • Klout (social media analytics startup): “Want to bro down and crush code? Klout is hiring”
Hackathons Hackathons are another important recruitment outlet for programmers and entrepreneurs, yet the culture is overwhelmingly male and often includes frat-boy misogyny. In September 2013, Australians JethroBatts and David Boulton sparked controversy and protest with the unveiling of their Titstare app at TechCrunch Disrupt, described as “an app where you take pictures of yourself looking at tits.” Their presentation was followed later in the day by “Circle Shake,” in which Kangmo Kim air-masturbated to demonstrate an app that counts how many times an iPhone can be shaken in 10 seconds. “The spirit of our event was marred by two misogynistic presentations. . . Sexism is a major problem in the tech industry. . . We are sorry.” --TechCrunch, September 8
Harassment & Cyber-Mobbing Women who speak out against sexism and misogyny are targeted by hate speech online Anita Sarkeesian was “cyber-mobbed” after starting a Kickstarter project to fund her video series on the representation of female characters in games Adria Richards became the target of online harassment after tweeting a photograph of men making sexual jokes about “forking” and “dongles” at PyCon in Santa Clara in March 2013. She later lost her job over the incident.
Reluctant Role Models • Successful female role models in the tech industry are reluctant to embrace feminism • Marissa Mayer “I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist” • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAJTNzr7tCQ "I don't think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that, I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions," she said. "But I don't, I think, have sort of the militant drive and sort of the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it's too bad, but I do think feminism has become, in many ways, a more negative word. There are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there's more good that comes out of positive energy around that than negative energy."
The future: changing attitudes, making new opportunities for women and girls • Girls, games and toys Goldie Blox – engineering game for girls, designed by Debbie Sterling Roominate - wired dollhouse building kit for young girls, designed by Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen
Sources Hayes, Caroline Clarke. “The Incredible Shrinking Woman.”In Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing. Ed Thomas Misa. NJ: Wiley, 2010. 25-50. Mandell, Nina. “Marissa Mayer: I Don’t Think That I Would Consider Myself A Feminist.” Fast Company.February 28, 2013. http://www.fastcompany.com/3006417/creative-conversations/marissa-mayer-i-dont-think-i-would-consider-myself-feminist Martins, N. and K. Harrison, Racial and Gender Differences in the RelationshipBetween Children’s Television Use and Self-Esteem: A Longitudinal Panel Study. Communication Research, 2012. 39(3): p. 338-357. Misa, Thomas, ed. Gender Codes: Why Women Are Leaving Computing. NJ: Wiley, 2010. Raja, Tasneem. "Gangbang Interviews" and "Bikini Shots": Silicon Valley’s BrogrammerProblem.” Mother Jones.April 26, 2013. http://www.motherjones.com/media/2012/04/silicon-valley-brogrammer-culture-sexist-sxsw Rideout, V.J., U.G. Foehr, and D.F. Roberts, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year Olds, in A Kaiser Family Foundations Study, K.F. Foundation, Ed., 2010. Sorenson, Jen. “The Universal Laws of Ladies in Science.” http://jensorensen.com/2012/10/03/this-weeks-cartoon-the-universal-laws-of-ladies-in-science/ Tiku, Nitasha. “This is Why There Aren’t Enough Women in Tech.” Valleywag Gawker. 08/29/2013. http://valleywag.gawker.com/this-is-why-there-arent-enough-women-in-tech-1221929631 Yurkiewicz, Ilana. “Study Shows Gender Bias in Science is Real. Here’s Why it Matters.” Scientific American. September 23, 2012. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/unofficial-prognosis/2012/09/23/study-shows-gender-bias-in-science-is-real-heres-why-it-matters/