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Women And Technology : Held Back By Patriarchy?

Posted: September 9, 2014

Why is technology still a male domain? This article takes a look at how patriarchy may be holding women back from using technology and pursuing related careers.

The use of technology not only improves people’s lives but it also in some way or the other signifies ambition and the desire to improve one’s living conditions and the environment. A person who is adept with technology is seen in a very favorable light in the society.

Unfortunately, since its inception, the technological spheres have been gendered to a great extent. It would not be wrong if one were to say that over the years it has acquired a predominantly masculine character. This is reflected in more ways than one. History itself gives a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that technology can sometimes be a totally scary and alienating experience for women.

Access : Denied

Masculinity in technology is a serious issue. Many researchers have found that the basic terminology and semantics used in technical parlance are often male centric in nature. Apart from this, a lot of women are denied access to technology. This has been successfully achieved using some problematic stereotypes and patriarchal logic such as – women are weak at STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects etc.

Thus, women are restricted from basic access to technology. A lot of research has shown that gender neutrality in technology has not been achieved to this day. Gender inequality in science and technology is reflected in the numbers game. Starting from the inventors of technological instruments and advancements, to the way the entire office (read: Corporate) culture is imagined, it is indeed an all “boys’ club”. Men are seen as the norm in the technical work spheres and women as the aberration.

Men are seen as the norm in the technical work spheres and women as the aberration.

Apart from this, a lot of harmful stereotypes that come with social conditioning are inimical to the entry of women in scientific research and technology-related work. One of them is the issue of hard technology vs soft technology, where women are relegated to work that is often very monotonous and offers no creative challenge at all. The so called “hard” technological work,which requires expert programming, decision-making and analytical skills, is mainly handled/given to men who are deemed more suitable.

These kind of jobs help a person gain valuable work experience and high level of work skills that can positively affect their future promotional chances. Unfortunately, the societal and organizational biases tend to penalize women employees on the basis of their gender. One needs to remember that all this is often done without an active motive to harm women, but we also need to remember how deeply ingrained the patriarchal values are in a society, which often tend to seep into an organizational set-up as well.

The erroneous acceptance of the concept of biological determinism,which states that a person’s biology dictates one’s fate, and that there are particular tasks which are suited for different genders, is indeed problematic. As a result, women are denied entry into certain areas and have to face gender biased inequalities, even in a so called “value free” science and technological sphere.

Why do women stay away from STEM subjects?

Researchers have talked about the leaky pipeline metaphor which effectively describes the effect of the stereotyping of women as weak in technical subjects, which leads to the systematic dropping out of girl children from STEM subjects, as they move from schools to higher levels of education. Thus, they are bereft from any chance of acquiring complex technical skills. This also reinforces and creates further stereotypes that mock the feminine gender as unable to handle technology.

Furthermore, even if women were to have access to these fields, there is absolutely no guarantee of a discrimination-free work environment for them. A lot of women face a huge corporate gender gap,which manifests with respect to the pay they receive, the kind of work and designation offered to them, or the promotional aspects in the job. The glass ceiling is indeed a real phenomenon to these women who want to climb the organizational ladder.

Women scientists and researchers too face a lot of obstacles in their work and find it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Thus,we find that technology can then be used as an important tool for patriarchy to deprive women access to modernity, upward mobility, and all the benefits that come with scientific knowledge and expertise.

Limiting opportunities for women?

This is unfortunate since we all know that technology can improve a person’s life in many ways. Technical knowledge and skills can offer a better scope for a high paying job and other benefits at one’s work. Nowadays,we find that one needs to be updated with newer technologies, since these help a person in maintaining communication, broadcasting material as well as improving the quality of the work that is being done. Therefore, it becomes imperative that women need to learn how to handle technology easily.

Apart from all this, technology offers a better understanding of the World around us. All sorts of information is available to the people at the press of a button; a concept which was rather alien till a few years back .In fact,women can have a greater access to all sorts of interesting infotainment, which not only improves and broadens their minds but it allows them a choice of the kind of media and entertainment they can indulge in. Thus,women can explore myriad options to improve their life conditions through the efficient use of technology.

It would be fantastic to use technology and science to help create a gender inclusive environment for everybody.Women have their own life experience and knowledge, and possess a rather unique way of viewing the World, which they can all bring to technical subjects as well. A fresh point of view or perspective in the scientific community would not be a bad idea at all.

The exclusivity of the boys club can be easily broken with higher number of women participants in the process of decision-making and creation of technological advancements. This would help in empowering women to a great extent and would instil in them a huge sense of achievement. Breaking of regressive gender based stereotypes does not only affect women positively but it helps the society move forward and we can then imagine an inclusive future for all the people.

Pic credit: Wasfiakab (Used under a CC license)

An engineer. Has worked in the IT industry for a while and then decided to

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  1. Pingback: Women and technology | Aindrila Chaudhuri

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