Archive for the 'Women' Category

Black Stripe Theater – SEVEN

Friday, April 15th, 2016

I went to see the documentary play SEVEN last night, which was put on by Black Stripe Theater as part of International Women’s Month.  It’s an upsetting play to watch as it deals with rape, domestic violence, enforced prostitution, poverty, and human rights violations.  I won’t say that I enjoyed the play, but it was not supposed to be entertainment, and art can certainly make us feel uncomfortable.

I had not read about the seven woman before going to see the play so I was surprised that one of the seven was a portrayal of Inez McCormack, a human rights and trade union activist from Northern Ireland.  It was strange listening to a voice from my own culture and trying to work out how it fits with stories from woman from Afghanistan, Russia, Guatemala, Cambodia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.  I found myself feeling something like imposter syndrome for my home country as we do have a tendency to downplay what happened and the impact it had.

One of the aspects of the show that I really liked is that it depicted all seven woman together, in a way that they could not have been in real life.  It was beautiful in that it clearly showed that woman are the same all over the world.  That we all love, we all feel pain, and that we are more alike than we are different.  That there is hope for change.

Who are the Role Models in Technology?

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

February’s edition of the Communications of the ACM contains an article called “Woman in Computing – Take 2”.  I printed it out last night but it isn’t as interesting as I had hoped. I hadn’t released from the cover that this was going to be a review article.  It does contain lots of facts and figures about women in computing but I am more interested in finding out the “why”.

The papers lists some of the current initiatives that are under way to try to increase the numbers of woman in computing.  One of these is to expose girls to positive role models in the technology sphere.  This is something that I have read about recently in the blogosphere as people are starting to write about Ada Lovelace day.

Recent research by psychologist Penelope Lockwood discovered that women need to see female role models more than men need to see male ones. That’s a relatively simple problem to begin to address. If women need female role models, let’s come together to highlight the women in technology that we look up to. Let’s create new role models and make sure that whenever the question “Who are the leading women in tech?” is asked, that we all have a list of candidates on the tips of our tongues.

This subject was also addressed by The Information Technology Association of America who released a report [pdf] in 2003 which stated the following:

Underrepresentation of women and minorities in IT leads to the inevitable “vicious  cycle” of fewer professional role models for those who wish to enter the IT profession.   The Panel believes that the scarcity of adequate role models and mentors has a direct  correlation to the perceptions that female and minority candidates will develop about IT.

I have written about role models before but I have to admit that this is an area I still don’t understand.   Part of the problem is that don’t have clear understanding of what a role model is.  Meriam Webster defines a role model as:

a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others

Now that is very clear when I read it but I can’t tell you who any of my role models are.  I don’t consciously sit around and think that I want to be like a particular person.  And I imagine the same is true for most people.  This is problematic though as it means that I am likely to underestimate the need for positive female role models in computing.

This isn’t the only thing I am confused about though.  If I forget about trying to work out who influenced me or who I imitate can I name some people that I imagine others would want to imitate that would cause them to pick computing as a career?