Sunday, 28 April 2019

Jobs for the girls?

I have just listened to a programme about technology on the radio. The main focus was women and technology.

When computers were first around the people working in IT were mostly women, possibly because they had the keyboard skills. Besides, nobody thought the software was all that important commercially. The hardware was where the money was.

Inevitably male managers were brought in and the men took over, as they have tended to do in culinary stuff and haute couture. But they often had to be taught how the technology worked by - you’ve guessed it! - the women.

Home computers came along and suddenly things changed. Parents bought computers for their sons rather than for their daughters. Boys played computer games more frequently than girls. So when they all went to college and needed to use computers the boys already had a leading edge. The girls had more to learn. And there were the role models: mostly rather geeky men. And the study or work environment tended (probably still tends) to be make dominated.

College course recruiters recently held an experiment. They interviewed students for computer courses. One group was interviewed in the computer room decorated with Star Wars posters, pictures of hi-tech machinery and so on. Another group was interviewed in the same room but this time decorated with gender neutral posters of nature scenes, animals and such.

A higher percentage of girls enrolled from the second group.


Characters in computer games tend to be designed from a male perspective. Which is why the female characters are often skimpily clad, not to mention being about to fall out of their clothes! Moves are afoot to change this.

Women are needed in technology to prevent gender bias messing things up. For example, when airbags were first introduced some women died, suffocated because the airbags had been tested on bulkier male dummies. Similar things happened with seatbelts. No doubt there are other instances of that sort of thing.

Maybe things are changing. Girls deal with mobile phones just as well as boys, although they might play fewer games on them and post more photos. Our eldest granddaughter, 21, has gaming friends online all around the world because she plays a lot of games and she’s good at it. But in the real world some people still react with surprise that she has that skill.

Change is slow to happen!

Stereotypical reactions abound. But sometimes they surprise us. I read this today about the writer Martin Amis reacting to the film ET:-

Martin Amis wrote, “Towards the end of the ET, barely able to support my own grief and bewilderment, I turned and looked down the aisle at my fellow sufferers: executive, black dude, Japanese businessman, punk, hippie, mother, teenager, child. each face was a mask of tears.”

Well, I never would have expected that. I know the film made my sister cry but she gets soppy about stuff. Perhaps I don’t have the sentimentality chip. I saw the film with my children, who didn’t cry either, when my daughter was about 6 or 7. We enjoyed it. The main reaction, however, was my daughter wanting to change her name from Ellen to Elliott, the name of the child who befriends the lost extraterrestrial, and be a boy. Nowadays I suppose I would have her in therapy but then we just took it in our stride.

Another report of tears came from an article about cleaning as therapy and the rash of youtube and TV stuff about it. In three days a “cleanfluencer” (that’s the technical term apparently), somebody called Mrs Hinch, has sold 160,000 copies of her book, all about “How a spot of cleaning is the perfect way to cleanse the soul”. (Well, yes, it can be therapeutic to clean your kitchen and look around with satisfaction at the results. But completing a difficult crossword or sudoku is also therapeutic!) Here come the tears: thousands queued at her book-signings - many cried when they reached the front of the line.

I am constantly amazed by such things. The woman is writing about housework, for goodness sake!

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