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Unraveling the Masculinization of Technology


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At the beginning of the modern technological era, to be a computer was to be an actual literal woman—someone trained in math and computations. Decades later, women are desperately underrepresented in most technical pursuits, with an increasingly “leaky” pipeline leaving fewer and fewer women throughout our career progression. Not only are we excluded, but the contributions of past women are erased almost as soon as they happen. Women of color, queer women, trans women, and those on other axes of marginalization encounter this even more strongly.

Would it surprise you to discover that this isn’t an accident? Or that it isn’t merely a reflection of biases in society in general? I’ll talk about the ways that masculinity in tech has been constructed over time to create a more “elite”, higher paid, more homogenous workforce, and to sell technology to a highly targeted population.

In the end, we’ll explore how to write a new narrative: one that includes everyone who desires to create better technology, without the gatekeeping and bias.

Published in: Technology

Unraveling the Masculinization of Technology

  1. 1. Unraveling the Masculinization of Technology Audrey Eschright / Open Source Bridge 2016
  2. 2. Technology? Masculinity??
  3. 3. This is what a software developer looks like
  4. 4. This is who we hire to write code
  5. 5. not all men (are represented)
  6. 6. Given all the ways this is reinforced, no wonder the narrative sticks. Those of us who don’t fit into that dominant masculinity are taught, over and over, 
 to write ourselves out.
  7. 7. If you’re under the age of 30, you have never seen anything different.
  8. 8. How did we get here?
  9. 9. You’ve heard of Ada Lovelace, right?
  10. 10.
  11. 11.
  12. 12. A light flashes once every five minutes; another light flashes every 14 minutes. If they both flash together at 1:00pm., what time will they next flash together? An aptitude question to screen potential developers:
  13. 13. Margaret Hamilton defined software engineering Photo: NASA
  14. 14.
  15. 15. “…a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50. And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”
  16. 16. The masculinity of technology is constructed, over and over. Through erasure, through moving goal-posts, through the narratives we promote.
  17. 17. Participation time!
  18. 18. Who benefits from inequality?
  19. 19. What’s the downside to creating more equality?
  20. 20. What’s the new narrative 
 we need? What would it feel like to see true gender diversity in our field?
  21. 21. What do we have to give up to get there?
  22. 22. Thanks! and further reading • The Recompiler issue 4: legacy systems (available at • The Computer Boys Take Over by Nathan Ensmenger • Hidden Figures by Margot Shetterly (will be out in September 2016) • • Contact me: