Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Web Secret #148: Women in Computer Technology

This blog post is about women who have made major contributions to computer technology, new media, and the Internet.

I regret to say you've been punk'd. There aren't any.

I could cite a hundred articles that testify to the scarcity of women in these fields. Take for example "40 People Who Changed The Internet" - the only woman on that list is Caterina Fake, listed along with her colleague Stewart Butterfield. They created Flickr.

I could quote a hundred articles that attempt to explain why there aren't more women in science, technology, mathematics, engineering, astrophysics, etc. etc.

Let's not even go that far - let's get personal. "All I Really Need to Know About Technology I Learned in Kindergarten" (apologies to Robert Fulghum.) Sorry, punk'd again - I learned it all from attending lectures, webinars and workshops given by men. Young men. Very young men.

When I attended the 2008 Web 2.0 Expo, one of the premier conventions on Internet technologies, I wish I had been a single woman in my twenties. While I did not get an exact figure from the organizers, the ratio of men to women was overwhelmingly lopsided. I felt like I was one of the first humans to visit an alien civilization.

Now clearly, I am exaggerating (only slightly) to make a point. There are a few bright lights out there - past and present. DeeAnna Nagel and Kate Anthony and their seminal work as the co-creators of the Online Therapy Institute, as well as their pioneering adventures in Second Life.

The truth is, no one really knows where the women are.

What I know for sure is that the dearth of women in the sciences is bad for humanity.

There are gender differences. Something important is not being developed, not being created, not being invented.

And I am very lonely.

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