In 1997 Sadie Plant’s book ‘Zeros and Ones’ explored the history of women’s unheralded influence on IT and technology. The book traced Ada Lovelace’s essential contributions to Babbage’s Difference Engine, as well as the tangible link between traditionally female activities, such as typing, weaving and forming networked communities, active, empowered online communities.
More than ten years on the IT industry still has a long way to go in terms of addressing its women and appealing to new generations of women. Since the 1980s, the number of female undergraduates in IT -related fields has decreased, according to the Computing Research Association. In 2011, roughly 12% of computer programming degrees were awarded to women.
A new wave of socially conscious technology users, led by organisations such as Future Gov, may help to educate the sector and give recognition to the creative value of a female tech-enabled work force. There have also been several clumsier pink-bow branded campaigns, but at least these recognise the need to address the gender gap in an industry which has a growing influence on our daily lives.
As with many service-based industries, success in IT requires empathy, problem solving and the ability to listen and learn fast. These are skills which place people first, before their machines, which is why it’s ridiculous when IT suppliers appeal exclusively to men. In fact they should be doing everything they can to stop the decline in female IT workers.
When sexist scenarios pan out in IT, they’re ridiculous because the effect is so jarring to an intellectually charged crowd. At 2012’s modestly titled ‘Internet world’, at Earls Court, the novelty of scantily-clad girls employed by a certain server hosting provider offering a passing group of female marketers leaflets was dead in the water.
Sexist advertising campaigns by cheap hosting provider, Go Daddy take irrelevance to new levels. Wikipedia’s offers an extensive description of their marketing:
Go Daddy’s advertising is produced in-house, and typically contains sexually suggestive material… CEO Bob Parsons refers to the marketing as “GoDaddy-esque” which he describes as “fun, edgy and a bit inappropriate.” Most of Go Daddy’s early TV ads starred former WWE Diva Candice Michelle, in some sort of sexual-related theme.
Needless to day, this defiant old school sexism, has invited a plethora of social media backlash, damaging the both the brand’s integrity and the image of the industry it’s meant to support. From a marketers point of view their adverts may raise awareness of their service, but that’s unlikely to lead to life long customers. Businesses may be motivated by the savings they offer, but at an immeasurable cost to their own reputations.
Fortunately, whilst certain elements of the tech industry keep prehistoric values alive, others forge ahead. A design and problem solving led approach is led by organisation such as Future gov, IDEO and ARUP’s drivers of change, which aim to harness technology in a people-focused and positive way.