Women in Technology Roundup

Technology empowers women, but they are by no means passive beneficiaries. Here’s just a handful of insightful articles that show how women are driving technological innovations around the world.

At the Atlantic, Intel’s Genevieve Bell talks with Alexis Madrigal about how reality defies gender stereotypes yet again:

We had this fascination with what the youths are doing and this notion that technology was being used by men. The data just didn’t reflect that. When you look the globe over, women are 44 to 45 percent of the world’s Internet users. They spend more time online than men—17 percent more a month. If you look at social-networking sites on a global scale, women are the vast majority on most sites, with the exception of LinkedIn.

In the New York Times, Helen Lewis discusses the consequences of the female invasion of the gaming world:

If there was one thing I had to say far too often this year, it was this: “Games aren’t a boys’ club anymore.” Next year might be the one in which women finally outnumber men as players.

At Human Rights Watch, Minky Warden shows how Saudi women are affected by technology, for better and for worse:

Last month, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia expanded a system in which it sends Saudi men text messages, known as SMS, to notify them when their wives or other “dependents” leave the country, as part of its regulations requiring women to obtain permission from their guardians to travel. In a twist that proves technology’s power, Manal al-Sharif, the woman who in 2010 launched a campaign to obtain for women the right to drive, used Twitter to inform the world of the story.

Same same but different: In New Delhi, women are using mobile apps to make sure they never walk alone – an upgrade from my old strategy of calling my brother and updating him on my location with every block, just in case one of those DC wackos popped out from an alley.

NPR’s All Things Considered covers Kenyan women who are getting ahead of the stereotypes curve:

It turns out that in Kenya, exactly as in Silicon Valley, the problem with getting more women in tech is that there aren’t more women in tech. “There are probably other women in tech who are alone, and they think they’re the weird ones, but if enough of us meet together, you know, it won’t be so weird anymore,” Owigar says.

A couple of weeks ago, the Financial Times‘ Ian Sanders looked at barriers to entry for women in tech:

Mentoring existing female technologists is not enough. Younger women are simply not entering the industry in sufficient numbers. In the US, just 18 per cent of undergraduate computing degrees in 2009 were awarded to women, down from 37 per cent in 1985.

In a slightly older article that pairs well with “Kisses and Hugs in the Office,” about women’s usage of the signoff “xoxo” and its professional implications, linguist Ben Zimmer examines gendered language in the Twitterverse – and in breaking down the research, discovers that one’s network or community is a much higher predictor of language use than gender alone:

They found that even though you can categorize certain words as having a higher male or female probability, it’s easy to find large swaths of Twitter users who go against these trends. By grouping people by their style of usage, they could find, for example, a cluster of authors that is 72 percent male but nonetheless favors the nonstandard spellings that are supposedly a hallmark of “female” language.

When I was working with female entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, one of the most successful firms I came across was a software company run by two female cousins. They got their start with help from a DOD fund and an initial major contract with the Afghan government, but their technology turned out to be useful for the private sector – and not just for users in the Dari and Pashto languages. They were one of the few firms that went beyond that vile standard we called “Afghan good-enough” – or worse, “Afghan woman good-enough” – to create products that had real market value. Likewise, the pioneering Young Women for Change got its start on Facebook, and now runs a girls-only Internet cafe in Kabul. And those are just two examples.

No matter where in the world we are, and what sector we’re examining, women matter. Carry on, ladies.

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