Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog


I suppose I come from pretty much a feminist position, but I suspect it has more to do with what the woman in question has felt as an acceptable and inviting passion throughout their life.

At a recent conference (Africa Source [my web log entries about it]), we had a lively discussion about gender issues in technology with not only a few real live girl geeks, but also someone whose real life work is dealing with gender issues in technology. Obviously, she's also coming from a feminist position, but her belief is that it has more to do with availability and (social/family) acceptability of opportunities to grow in the technical area.

The issue of role models was another issue which most people there accepted as a major inhibiting factor in the acceptance of something as a passion; you're less likely to invest time and energy into something when you can't see yourself as the end result, which is something which role models provide.

And finally, an inviting community and work place is necessary.

I brought this together with my experience of race/culture issues in technology in South Africa, where we're trying to build a base of technically-excelling individuals from the races which have not had that opportunity before. Self-acceptance, social acceptance, work environment, and role models seem to be the key areas when the opportunity does present itself.

This is less of an issue outside of Africa (I'm told) and similarly the gender issue is less pronounced in certain areas, such as the Scandinavian countries (or so I'm told).

The argument from the other side really seems to be that girls have less of an inherent predisposition to this sort of work, or they're not tough enough to survive in the sometimes hot-headed and sexist IT community or workplace.

The feminist response is that the former may or may not be valid, but it's unprovable while the latter is in place. Unless there's a safe and inviting environment for these girls to find themselves, you can't say they don't exist.
Comment on Feminist Computer Science
by Neil Blakey-Milner