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Belinda Parmar

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Are Men Just Better at Technology?

Posted: 12/10/2012 12:26

Men and women are different.

We look different. We act different. We like different things. Men are from Mars. Little Girls are made of sugar and spice. We all know the drill.

With my new campaign Little Miss Geek I've been trying to narrow the gender gap in the technology industry, and get more young women thinking seriously about tech careers.There is one question that journalists continually throw at me: Are we fighting a losing battle? Aren't men just naturally better equipped to work in the technology sector?

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After all, more than three out of four tech jobs in the US and four out of five in the UK are held by men. There must be some biological reason for this, surely?

The tech industry seems to think so, having spent years burying it's head in the sand and crying 'We'd love more women to come and work for us, but it's not our fault! It's the genes, the genes!'

Many people still don't believe that women are equipped to understand tech. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are all considered natural 'boys'' subjects. Women break computers, men fix them. Women use technology, men create technology.

It's absolute rubbish.

There is absolutely no biological reason why men and women aren't equally suited for careers in the technology industry. The problem is mostly cultural. Women don't go into technology because women are made to believe they can't go into technology.

We teach girls (often unconsciously) that they can't do things or we encourage them to do things we think are 'female' subjects which end up becoming self-fulfilling prophecies, making our girls grow up thinking that that is the way it is.

This can happen as early as 6 years old. Research has shown that children of both genders as young as six already believe that mathematics - one of the key building blocks for a tech career - is a subject 'for boys.'

A recent study which compared school mathematics results across 86 different countries found that there was no difference between the scores of each sex. The problem is one of perception, not biology.

If were true that men were better at technology, then you would expect the proportion of women in tech to be similarly bad all over the world, however in some countries the gender imbalance is practically nonexistent.

In the Baltic states - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - there are actually more women than men in tech careers. Perhaps this part of the world is miraculously full of women who are biological oddities. Or maybe, just maybe, its that in these countries girls are applauded, not stigmatised, for being interested in tech - a career that carries a very high status. Our research with high profile women in IT in Bulgaria highlighted that there are more women in Bulgaria because government, universities and parents actively encourage girls to consider a career in technology.

Are men better just better at technology? Absolutely not. Right now British and American men might be, but that is only because they have been raised in a culture that tells them they're more technologically minded from the moment they are born. The problem doesn't lie in women's brains, it lies in our attitudes.

This means we can do something about it. If cultural factors are holding our women back from technology then it is time to change our culture. With the Little Miss Geek campaign we are aiming to realign attitudes from infancy to the boardroom, providing practical steps to overcome the problem.

The time for excuses is over. Women belong in the tech industry.

@belindaparmar is the author of Little Miss Geek which is out in paperback and kindle edition on Amazon.

You can support the campaign by downloading the Little Miss Geek badge on your blog and getting in touch with lucie@ladygeek.com or following @ladygeektv to contribute your thoughts on our new blog

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