Get more women interested in technology

Strategies to get more women interested in technology are often developed by men. The Technical University of Delft organizes a pink-themed tea party to attract female students, and in a discussion on the involvement of girls in IT often results in pink apps or the idea of girls developing an application for the clothing industry. As if girls are all shallow creatures interested in clothing and shoes alone.

If you ask me, these are typical examples of male-driven approaches. Make it pink, serve it with tea and chocolate, and women will line up. While it’s reassuring that everyone seems to understand the importance of diversity, and the need for gender balance within the IT sector, the execution might need some work.

IT can be fun

Should we specifically be targetting and attrackting pink-loving girls? Or instead, should we focus on a more inclusive approach within the educational system? When I went to school in the late ‘90’s early ‘00’s, computer science was part of the curriculum. We were taught how to build a simple HTML website and to properly use a desktop computer (we had no laptops and smartphones back then). In the end, it didn’t impact on my eventual choice of study (I decided to study law), but it did influence my attitude towards the IT sector. It showed me that IT can be fun, and that with some basic skills even I can build a Harry Potter-website. I dared to listen to the real IT-fanatics in class when they explained something. I needed no pink, tea or chocolate to prove that technology isn’t terrifying. A balanced, inclusive approach was enough to show me there is more to IT, that there is no reason to be scared of it. It showed me that asking questions can go a long way, and that there is no shame in that.

The future

Growing up with Instagram, Facebook and Youtube, wouldn’t it be great to educate children on the whole world behind the digital services they use daily? I plead for an inclusive, gender-neutral educational approach, starting at a young age, which informs our children about the magic that make the tools they use tick. This way, both girls and boys will learn the wide variety of skills, both technical and creative, needed in this sector, instead of fear of the unknown keeping them from a fulfilling career in IT.

No pink needed.

Written by: Ilse de Jonge, Young Information Professional PBLQ.