By Maria Yolisma Garcia, Social Media Intern
In a sea of countless headlines about tech innovation, it never surprises me that those with the most praise are male. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs – all have become household names credited with the disruptive innovations we see today.
According to the Muse, at the moment there are only 5% of women spearheading their own tech startups, many of whom are app developers or programmers. And, as one of the largest audiences in social media, women are still minimally represented with only 25% working in the information technology field or proprietary software. This lack of diversity in the tech world often means that our digital experiences are being developed through a male lens, which in turn allows some to perpetuate stereotypical female features and language.
These gender biases are also being programmed in artificial intelligence languages that continue to confine the expression of women. In a recent article by Wired Magazine, researchers found that “machine-learning software trained on the datasets didn’t just mirror those biases, it amplified them.”
The digital world is evolving at unprecedented speed, I mean as I type this, my phone is busy reminding me that I need to update to the latest software. It remains one of the busiest and fastest growing platforms that is fully integrating into our homes, cars and everyday lives. Which begs the question, how can diversity (or lack of) affect this growth?
Glass ceilings, while they continue to be tapped and cracked have not yet been fully broken through. Instead, a few determined ones slip through the cracks to innovate in a heavily male dominated field, and they are helping to create more space for a new generation of women to minimize gender biases in technology.
In recent years we have seen many initiatives centered around the notion of closing the gender gap. Girls who Code offers a platform for young women to learn about coding and grow in an environment that encourages them to think outside the box.
From initiatives like these, we also learn that we need to look at this from an intersectional lens as well. Black Girls who Code and Latinas in Tech serve as respective platforms to also bring women from underserved communities which in turn, builds larger bridges bringing innovative minds together.
When I attended my first coding class, I admit I felt less than the rest of my peers because most of them were well versed in technology, mainly because they grew up knowing it. As far as I can remember, a lot of tech related toys were associated with them being for boys. My mother always told me video games and computer software programs were “only for boys,” and I was not allowed to play with them.
Going into that class I was intimidated to say anything. Due to my lack of experience, which to be honest, was not as extensive as theirs, I believed my ideas would not be accepted. However, my curiosity for innovation led me to be in that class. Owning my ideas and sharing them was difficult but well worth it.
As we continue to evolve in the technological world, we must open the doors for more women. When we include diverse perspectives and experiences into how we develop new programs or apps, we can create technology that suits and benefits everyone.
Maria is a Mexican student at the University of Texas at Arlington, stationary enthusiast and music junkie. She is an amateur calligrapher and extreme mini-van driver.