Can we take an unbiased look at how we frame technology for young girls?

girls in tech

One of our goals here at Women In Tech Tribe (WITT) is to spotlight amazing opportunities that exist for young women who have taken the ideas of STEM, and introduced art into it. The world of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ART, and math) offers options that are still far too undiscovered for our personal taste!

But first, we should probably tackle the elephant in the room. Our own relationship with gender and technology, and Gen X or millennial parents and influencers of the today’s young women aged 6-16, tomorrow’s leaders.

We hear bias, often, in the intersection of young women and technology

Have you ever heard a mother say, “Oh, my daughter is not interested in gaming and technology, she’s much more interested in dolls?” Or, if we’re being honest, have you ever found yourselves letting toy and clothing stores lead you to make trite choices on what is appropriate gifting for the young girls or boys in your lives? (Confession: We certainly have)

Even in 2022, the thinking of “pink is for girls and blue is for boys”; or “trucks are for boys and dolls are for girls” is still heavily prevalent.

Bear in mind, that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the lived experience of non-binary and gender non-nonconforming youths.

Bias is inherent in the way we approach play and work – challenge it

To our minds, the way to challenge bias among the young women of tomorrow is to resist the urge to pass along our descriptions and labels to them. Let’s allow our narratives to stay with us, and instead put on our curiosity hats.

Let’s ask girls how they define technology.

When we talk about ‘tech’ or ‘STEM’ or even ‘STEAM’, let’s ask them what they would call it.

The next time you find your 12-year-old nephew, or daughter of a friend, playing with a science kit, or coding robot, ask them what kind of toy that is, and allow them to lead the narrative.

When encouraged, children will navigate to their natural genius

Today’s kids, gender notwithstanding, walk around with iPads, and phones that extend the boundaries of what is possible. We maintain that the arts component becomes ever more important in this context. A vital way to harness the skills of some very talented, creative, artistic, and scientifically-inclined young women, in particular.

Why not encourage them to find their way into a career in technology when we talk to them?

Sometimes, technology leads you to a career in STEAM, sometimes relationship skills do

Kelley Irwin and Debra Christmas call themselves “total opposites”. Kelley is a STEM graduate. Debra is a law and sociology undergraduate, who says, “I knew nothing about technology. I never took a course in my life. And now, I have spent 43 years in this field and I am still having a wonderful time. I sure didn’t come into it for my technology skills. I got recruited for my people relationship skills. And that was in 1979 when somebody was smart enough to realize we need to talk about more than engineering to attract people to the solutions that will change the world.”

Prepare your girls for the possibilities that they might not even think about now

Some of the jobs that the young people who are 6-16 right now will have don’t even exist right now. Today, we’re seeing both women and men from the arts using storytelling in gaming and user experience design. Who would’ve seen that as an option for a graduate from a theater program at York University even a decade ago?

Technology, combined with the arts, has impacts and career opportunities that most of us don’t fully realize.

And we are deeply passionate about it! You will hear from us soon on the subject. Watch for a blog later in April in which we will break down 5 key career possibilities for young women within the field of STEAM.

Spoiler alert: we’ll focus on options that do not include gaming or web design!

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