In my usual daily routine of trying to gather research for something else, I stumble upon a statistic that sets me back on my heels, and I need to write. To process. Here is the statistic:
“Today women get 18% of computer science degrees, down from 37% 30 years ago.”
Google is trying to fix that by changing the image of what a computer scientist looks like on TV shows and movies.
We are all familiar with the stereotypical computer geek- maybe a little overweight, maybe looks like a hippie, maybe a loner without relationships, eating pizza out of a box.
Here is stereotypical video embed number one, so that you can get the at-a-glance view of the fact that THERE ARE NO WOMEN on this show. As in, no women. AND all the coders are the stereotypical nit wits described above.
But don’t listen to me. Just look for yourself.
Do you see ME in that trailer anywhere? Are you aware that I am fluent in more computer coding languages than I can count offhand, sitting here typing right now? That I would have to take valuable time out of my day to think about all the languages I know? (And thereby not have as much time to tell you about my current level of outrage at my discovery of this HORRIBLE statistic?)
To try to be upbeat, I am hoping to coordinate with some initiatives to get more girls coding in my classrooms soon, but my feeling of outrage and anger is real. Only 18% of women get computer science degrees. Say it with me.
So how DO we fix this?
The “fix” proposed by Google in the article where I found the Awful Statistic isn’t much more appealing than the complete reverse example of the TV show, Silicon Valley. If you scroll down the Google article, you encounter a group of somewhat vacuous looking t’weens linking arms and the movie they are in is called “Hyperlinked”- oh, duh, because they are linking arms.
The article states: Hyperlinked is the tale of five best friends or “soulsies” in middle school played by popular girl band L2M who use their programming chops to create and code a website for girls to share personal advice.
I’m embedding the video so that you can get a good look at the at-a-glance reprehensibility of this soul-sucking vomit-inducing trailer. If that’s even a word or concept.
So, evidently we women and young girls should learn to code so that we can share and update advice on our hair and what to wear. NOT because the planet we live on is in ecological crisis, NOT because social injustices continue that need data scientists with chops to analyze.
Hopefully I can continue to fight the battle to change what we do with our technology. Technology has the power to change lives and the world for the better. Not just to exist to discuss our boyfriends or girlfriends, our hair, or to invent hashtags that have no meaningful connotation nor will anyone ever use them in a search string.
Today, my students are working away on the task I’ve set them to: creating a Powerpoint presentation that isn’t JUST about learning to make a Powerpoint, but also about the critical thinking necessary to identify a world problem, research a technology that may be with us within five years to address the problem, and then discuss relative pros and cons concerning the technology.
My four classes working on this project have discussed everything from self-driving cars to bio-printing to life straws to a bicycle that sucks up water and filters it while you ride to a soccer ball that generates electricity when you kick it. We’ve looked at artificial trees that remove carbon from the atmosphere. We’ve looked at homelessness, climate change, the California fires, the hurricanes, talked about cap and trade and energy companies that mandate a percentage of coal production which thereby can nix cleaner technologies, electric cars, solar cars, solar energy, and indoor hydroponic farming. Some of the presentations looked at the odd psychology of the human being in light of technology, such as the trend of young Japanese tech workers buying Gatebox, a 25,000 hologram girl living in a little plexiglass case- somewhat reminiscent of “I Dream of Genie.” Dressed in a kinky maid’s outfit, she talks, and texts little reminders that she’s waiting at home for her master to arrive home from work. (And what woman would want to go work for a Japanese high tech firm, if her co-workers had a Gatebox waiting at home?)
But bravely, we learned about Gatebox, and with grit and courage, attacked the issue of sexist stereotyping in the world of technology.
You’ll probably want to read this article: The Creepy Virtual Assistant that Embodies Japan’s Biggest Problems:http://fortune.com/2016/12/18/gatebox-virtual-assistant-japan/
We learned about Virtual Reality, and talked about why teens want to “zone out”- because they are bored. But why?
“Because when we were babies, we were born with a sense of wonder,” one student told me. “But as we grew, we wanted to explore the world on our own, but we realized we were in the clutches of our parents and teachers, and we couldn’t escape.”
We talked about co-housing, multi-age schools, community inter-generational projects…
And not once did a student get up to make a presentation about a technology that could fix their hair or their relationships. But each student attacked the problems of the world bravely, and tried to find solutions as best they could in light of the technology they researched.
If only Hollywood would make shows about them.