What Girls in ICT day actually does is perpetuate inequality

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Today is world Girl in ICT day. We have dedicated an entire day to celebrating and encouraging women to go into the field of technology.

I had a protracted discussion with my neighbour about this day what it actually means. In her view, she doesn’t understand why there needs to be a day to celebrate this because by highlighting a day like this it actually in effect perpetuates inequality. The argument was a day doesn’t change anything, and that goes for all human inequalities not just gender bias.

I take a different view to this. What troubles me about this day is not that it might perpetuate inequalities but that it is so necessary because the gender gap in technology is not diminishing but growing wider. It is not growing wider because there aren’t enough women in tech ( there aren’t) but the way these women are treated and how they feel they must behave. It is growing more because of the perceptions that still exist and are perpetuated on a daily basis.

I have seen women in tech comment on needing to dress the part and step up to the plate by looking serious so they can be taken seriously. Though there really is nothing wrong with that, I wonder if it isn’t sending a dangerous message to young girls. We must ask the question of what society wants to see when young girls in tech step out. Would they rather see an innocuous being in her gamine style accepting a place at the table, but not at its head? Should she be serious and all business? Or can she be herself?

When I think of young girls going out into the world, I want them to be brave enough to fail and whimsical enough to laugh at that failure. Young women should be able to take failure in their stride and rise to whatever challenge the world throws at them regardless how sartorially prepared they are. If young women aren’t courageous enough to play for fear of being deemed silly, then we have done little girls every where a great disservice.

I have begun watching HBO’s Silicon Valley, a comedic take on the world of tech startups, and I find it though witty, disappointing in its gender representation. There are very little women on the show and those that are simply talking heads or proxies for male leads. This could perhaps change, but for a show based on back of the tech successes enjoyed by the likes of Facebook, Google and Yahoo, the lack of or mention of tech savvy women woefully obvious making the absence of these women problematic.

What HBO’s Silicon Valley suggests is that the world isn’t interested in seeing female techies or that the company doesn’t trust in the comedic talents of women to play off their male counterparts. Either way a grave problem is being unintentionally highlighted: as a society we are still relegating women to unseen supporting roles.

I have seen so many young women with qualities that prepare them for the strenuous world of technology: strength, vulnerability, risky-taking, a clear intellect, honesty, courage and the ability to play. Because what is innovation without a little silliness and a sense of play.

To be honest, we do not need another day to celebrate women in technology, what we need is the courage to display modern womanhood, the type that breaks down all stereotypes and archetypes. The type that graciously falls into professional excellence.

I am a woman in tech: do not celebrate me today, recognise me everyday.