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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. Patriachy! Everywhere! LoL

  2. Valentine Michael Smith -

    Right here, in your own text, is the presumption that will keep you from understanding:
    “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.”

    Even in feminist-friendly Scandinavia they were forced to re-evaluate this presumption. The article below carries links to several videos–try just the first one–where four different scientists show evidence of innate, not socialized, indicators that might predict career preferences. Watch the social theorists repeatedly deny the data while offering only their unsupported assertion as evidence.


    Look in your own description:
    “An IT engineer. Has worked in the IT industry for a while and then decided to move to the social sector. Interested in feminist and sex positive ideas/praxis. In all, wants to live a life that makes her,and the people around her, happy!”

    You switched to a career where socialization matters more than technical ability. Probably not because you weren’t up to the skills, you simply preferred a people-oriented environment. STEM careers are solitary and somewhat ruthlessly demanding: the program works or it doesn’t; you either fix the machine or it remains inoperable; the bridge stands or falls. You succeed or you . . . FAIL! No one I know enjoys failure, but women seem to avoid situations where failure is starkly defined and personally delineated.

    Lastly, the whole post is based on the usual Social Justice Warrior obsession with results rather than process: feminist political theory (almost religious, actually) asserts unequivocally that if there are gender differences in numbers in careers it MUST be those rascally Patriarchalists at it again! As opposed to actually doing the hard, challenging work of trying to find out why.

  3. How can women be taken seriously when feminist writers continue to make excuses instead of taking the initaitive and provide solultions to this “boys club”.

    The only solution they have is to destroy the “boys club” by denying males spaces at university.

    Oh i’m a little girl the boys won’t let me play……….bah. Get real

    Please provide a solution without handicapping boys.

    Equal opportunity not equal outcome.

    • Women outperform men in universities, and yet men do better than men at SAT scores. And feminists say “The SAT Is Rigged Against Girls”! Who will tell these feminists their great-great-grandmoms who lived in caves made an arrangement with their men that they would stay back and nurture the kids when men went out and risked their lives to bring food. Now, 50,000 years later, men and women have biologically evolved accordingly. Women are better than men in so many things, and so are men better than women at many things. While the power equation isn’t really fair to women, however, the women are choosing the wrong path when they want to take all the roles of men and displacing men in the name of gender-equality. Most women realise this, but their voices are not as loud and shrill as that of feminists.

  4. Okay.Let me first thank you all for your comments 🙂 I may or may not agree with you but that does not lessen my respect for your opinions.
    You know patriarchy is at its strongest when feminism becomes a dirty word.Instead of demonizing feminists,wouldn’t it be better if everyone became an ally to a cause that tries to bring everyone at the same level? But,never mind.Maybe that IS asking for too much.Maybe not.

    Someone raised an important point about research which points to the fact that the reason why women are subjugated is because of their biological make up.That is to say that men and women are positioned in a hierarchical manner because nature meant it that way.Hmmm.We need to be careful about research and where it comes from (The funding and motive behind it). We also need to remember that the claim that science is objective and non biased has long been refuted.In fact,science and technology are extremely socialized.(B Latour,1987).I get skeptical every time people use science to justify socialization as something biological .For a long time indeed,white man domination and racist ideas that were justified on the basis of “scientific research”. There were massive research (which at one time could not be refuted) conducted by people who believed that people belonging to the Aryan race were superior biologically.Would you now believe those data which suggested that eugeny and racial supremacy are important for the sustenance of the human race,just because “research” was conducted on it? 🙂
    (I’d also like to point out that I had given references for this article,but I guess they were removed while editing.I always provide links and encourage further reading on the matter. )

    The main issue with the idea “Biology as fate” is the fact that certain things are passed off as non rectifiable.You know what’s the problem with stereotypes,don’t you?It’s just one side of the story.Not the whole story.
    Now think about it.From birth itself if you keep telling a girl child that she would become unfeminine were she to pursue certain work,what could the outcome be? Even masculinity and the idea that men need to be hard,rational,analytical.What about those that want to break away from stereotypes?If was not a gender social construct,why would gender fluidity exist?
    For those girls who try to enter the science and tech industries,it is not an easy fight.When Indra Nooyi,one of the most accomplished women in the World says that women cannot have it all,there has to be a reason why.Oh,we all know that women fare better in school and colleges.We know that some women pioneered engineering and the reason why you can use algorithms is because Ava Lovelace introduced it to the World.We know all that.But,what about the fact that a handful of women reach the top?What about the poor representation of women found in middle and senior management?

    A classic case of how socialization affects you and your choice of career.All my family (and the extended family) members have taken up STEM subjects.Almost all of them are either engineers,scientists or doctors.It was unimaginable for someone to aspire to be something other than this.It took a lot of courage and strength for me to come out and say that I want a different career path.If you think that it is easy to find success in a field when you already have a good paying job and a comfortable life planned for you,you have to be kidding yourself.It has taken me 2-3 years to stabilize and find my footing in the social sector.I did not give up the IT sector because it was tough.On the other hand,I choose to give it up because that was not what I was meant to do.Everyone has a calling in their life,I chose not to ignore it. 🙂

    Someone raised a point about feminist writers harping on the same issues again and again and not discussing the solutions.If you don’t discuss issues,do they not exist? Can you close your eyes and wish them away? 🙂 For effective solutions,you need to articulate the problem in a language that people can understand and/or relate to.This is so simple as as programming where you write a lines of code and then run them for tests under a controlled environment.Gender is a complex issue,that affects a lot of lives and has important implications.People who look for solutions need to make sure that they take into consideration every aspect and angle.
    It is a fact that a lot of people who work for women and some women organizations are not at all women friendly.They end up perpetrating and maintaining the harmful stereotypes.They have no understanding of the complexities of the issue.I can give you an example of something which happened to me.I was about to intern with a very famous organization that calls itself a feminist in its outlook.It was a different city and the details were finalized.I got a call just a few days before I was supposed to start my work and I was politely informed that they did not want to take responsibility of where I was to stay.They must have felt that a young woman was a liability for them and had assumed that I cannot take care of myself.In their attempts to “protect” me,they took away my right to choose and look out for myself.I felt it was against their so called feminist credentials.But,I am sure they still do not comprehend why their behavior was problematic.This comes from not taking into account the varying and often contradictory positions.

    And it is a fact that we need to study an issue before we finally master it.Take Western bio medicine for that matter.You need to dedicate years and years to studying and understanding basic anatomy.Why? Because someday you will be responsible for a person’s health and life.Similarly,it takes years for a social work practitioner to grasp the complexity of the human issues and the intersections of race,class,gender etc.They are not so simple as they seem.
    What these articles try to do is throw some light on hidden aspects of the issues that have already been talked about.Like say the leaky pipeline metaphor.Of course they are not exhaustive.

    My only wish is that people read the whole article before commenting on it.Nobody is trying to attack men.What we are trying to do is trying to access the power that men are (exclusively) granted due to their gender.Try imaging a world where you are rendered powerless.Not such a pretty picture,is it?:)

    But,thank you for your comments! I appreciate them.

    Phew.I am tired.I will go eat a cookie now! :3

    • Communism thrives disguised as feminism. By identifying half of the humanity as oppressed and the other half as oppressors. Of course, women have much less power than men in almost all spheres of human endeavor. This is how things evolved in the course of human history. We are better placed now to rectify several underlying causes of this dis-balance. However, when feminists create a demon called “patriarchy” (compare with “capitalism” and “bourgeois”), and indulge in keeping the keeping the demon alive rather than addresses the core socio-economic and biological (of course!) issues facing women, it becomes difficult to work with them. If feminism has become a bad word, it’s their own doing. It’s you who needs to become more accommodating.

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