Technology Does Not Even The Score, Ladies

08/03/2011 16:31 | Updated 22 May 2015

I hate pink gadgets. I always have. Pink cell phones, pink cameras, and don't even get me started on that Vivienne Tam laptop.

Oh sure, gadgets can be fashionable and I have been known to carry the Kate Spade iPhone case. But I cannot stand it when women's magazines feature computers and cell phones just because they are pink or flowered, with no regard for their specs or performance. It makes me bonkers because it reminds me that technology and the internet at large is still a man's game.

The digital divide typically refers to the economic gap that keeps people of lower socioeconomic status off of the Internet. We can extend the concept to the gender disparity on the internet and technology in general.

Technology is polarised by sex. In its inception, it was a field of toys created by boys for boys. Women have a voice and presence now but we are fooling ourselves if we think that it is equitable. Now is the time to pay attention to what we think may be a level playing field, lest we get stuck with those craptastic pink gadgets.

"There are many plausible reasons why the emerging Internet age may reinforce disparities," writes Pippa Norris in Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty, and the Internet Worldwide.

Norris says that the internet perpetuates the same social disparities we have always known in the Western world: leaving behind "many poorer households, manual workers, the less educated, the elderly, and women."

We tend to think of the internet as an equalising force. I think that can be dangerous. The internet doesn't level the playing field just because we can all get on Wi-Fi. This is not an equal world just because we can all mouth off on Twitter. The workplace is not suddenly free of gender disparities because we are all friends on Facebook.

If we get too caught up in the sound of our own voice on our social networks, we miss the fact that we are not all equally received. As academic Matthew Hindman writes, "Online speech follows winners-take-all patterns."

So if a Tweet falls in a forest, does it make a sound?

No. It doesn't.

As women, we have to make sure that our digital voices are not polarised by gender. That is why I reject those patronisingly pink gadgets with less performance and battery life than their masculine counterparts. Not because I don't like pink, although I'm not really a big fan. But because I don't support the notion that you can market to women with a particularly fierce shade of redcurrant, ignoring our equal need for 4G, cloud storage, and high definition screens.

Deanna Zandt said it well in her recent book, Share This!

"As a woman all too familiar with the 'pale, male, and stale' phenomenon, I also understand that diversity is key to bringing about tremendous social change using social technology. And I believe it's critical to acknowledge the privilege one brings to the table: The social system we live in automatically gives people benefits based on the color of their skin, the money they have, their gender, their sexuality, their access to technology, and more. I recognise that my privilege influences the work I do, and if I lose sight of that fact, I expect to be reminded and held responsible."

Now is the time to hold ourselves responsible and demand an equal voice while voices are still being established online. Be on the lookout for how the digital divide preserves the gender gap and reject it. And fine, if you really love the pink Dell Inspiron, get one! Just make sure it has the RAM, memory, and battery life you need. I won't judge. Unless you choose pink over performance.

Natali Morris is a news presenter for CNET TV and a technology contributor for CBS News. You can also check her out on her daily newscast for CNET TV, Loaded.


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