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Tackling discrimination against women in IT

Juliana Harsianti

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, March 8, 2018  /  08:29 am
Tackling discrimination against women in IT

The world of technology is still widely dominated by men and offers limited opportunities for women. (Shutterstock/File)

Technological progress should benefit all members of the public. However, there are still limitations in access to technology, especially for women. 

The world of technology is still widely dominated by men and offers limited opportunities for women.

In most schools, for instance, male students receive electronic or computer courses, while their female peers get sewing lessons, thus creating the mindset that women are not suited for technology.

The current discrimination against women in technology is an irony, considering the fact that the early invention of computers involved many women, such as Ada Lovelace and Grace Hooper, according to Kathleen Azali, a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and founder of C2O Library and Collabtive web-based project management.

Ada Lovelace was a mathematician of the British nobility, who in the 19th century created the world’s first computer program, and Grace Hopper was a Harvard computer scientist working with the US Navy during World War II and afterward.

The marginalization of women in technology began in the western educational world, particularly when computer programming entered the campus. 

“The first campus opening a computer program was Princeton University, which banned women from taking part in this program,” Kathleen said. 

A number of female programmers involved in the early work on NASA’s space shuttles found their names were not mentioned in any publication on the effort.

Although women did eventually gain access to the information technology (IT) industry, sexist barriers are still encountered.

A case in point is that of James Damore, a Google technician criticizing Google’s nondiscrimination policy in recruiting employees. 

Damore said that, by nature, men were better than women at computer programming, and there was no reason for Google to employ more female technicians.

Damore was fired for his 
opinion.

The discriminatory situation in education and industry seems to make women reluctant to study anything related to technology, while in reality, technology is inseparable from life. 

Understanding and utilizing technology means not only possessing the latest gadgets, but also being familiar with coding, security of surfing the virtual world as well as empowering women and communicating their aspirations.

With this objective, Anantya van Bronckhorst and several partners have introduced Girl in Tech to Indonesia, an initiative to bring women closer and deeper into the technological world.

Girl in Tech is a global organization with branches in various countries. One of Girl in Tech’s activities is Women Win, which is a contest to initiate women’s empowerment through technology. 

With the contest, Girl in Tech is supposed to help realize two ideas, Kostoom and Help Nona. The former concerns online dressmaking services and the latter constitutes an online education and discussion forum dealing with violence in dating.

Girl in Tech also provides training in coding, web analytics and a hackathon for women. 

Anantya acknowledged that many women were still unwilling to learn new things related to digital technology, for various reasons, from their busy daily routines to their lack of confidence in women’s ability to study IT. 

As pointed out by Kathleen, Anantya also witnessed the strong perception regarding the sphere of technology as an uncommon field of study for women. 

Anantya has thus adopted the strategy of conducting roadshows in high schools introducing alternative skills besides those of a feminine nature. In this way, women are expected to get accustomed to deeper involvement with technology, while becoming aware that technology can be utilized for different purposes rather than just for consumption.

“In the era of ever-prevailing digital technology, expertise in the digital field is highly beneficial for occupations,” Anantya said.

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