Traditionally, technology has been associated with rationality, objectivity and structure; traits oft considered “masculine” in the traditional societal definition of gender roles. While some technologies have largely been male-dominated, throughout history, women have had an often unrecognized presence in making significant contributions to these technological advancements. One such technology would be the digital computer. While its development is generally viewed as a product of male logic and rationality, much of the progress in this area has required an intuitive, interactive and generally less structured “feminine” approach. These culturally appropriated gender characteristics as well as historic gender roles have had a significant influence in consumerism and technological development. In this activity, you will explore technologies that may be gender-specific and evaluate technological innovations that have shaped current society.
Briefly discuss the history and association of gender and technology. How has gender mattered in the historical development and marketing of technology?
Gender and its relation to the implementation, marketing, and focus have been a critical center point for technology and its association throughout history. The bias of gender and technology has more recently become well documented as the gender bias has started to become less relevant in more modern history. Initially, marketing was focused on women, as they were regarded as the “consumer” for many items. Marketing used words focused on a feminine audience. In an example of Edison’s phonograph and motion picture, he refused to accept that his technologies might be used for socializing over conversations and romanticizing motion pictures. For this reason, Edison’s competitors proved victorious as Edison elected to keep his inventions marketed towards a masculine business purpose.
Provide at least two examples of technologies that are traditionally considered “masculine” and “feminine.” On what basis are you making the distinctions?
Initially, computer programming was considered a feminine technology, as it related to the mathematic work that women did as “computers” for scientists and physicists. When computer science became a “high-status” academic discipline, this technology saw a role reversal. With the high-status title and significant pay increase, men swiftly took over the role of computer programmers. When women began to occupy meaningful factory worker jobs that were formally masculine, men began to fill more white-collar office jobs, thus, leaving the hard and dirty work to the women. At the same time, men sat in offices at desks.
How is technology helping to reshape traditional gender roles and gender identities in the 21st century? Provide real-world examples.
Equality in employment is an initial step towards reshaping gender roles in the 21st century. These reforms have paved the way for women to fulfill the highest positions in the worlds leading technology companies. Women are the CEO of many of the world’s top technology companies from Facebook, to Youtube, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo, and Google, just to name a few. A “feminine” influence in these world-leading companies will progress to narrow the gender spheres once used to characterize male and female roles in technology and consumerism.
What is the driving force behind this breakdown of gender barriers?
Society has adapted to a variety of changes over the past century. Women rising to the call of duty and proving more than capable of running America’s factories during WWII was a critical turning point in the gender roles of the time. I can’t make this statement without regarding the effects of equality and equal opportunity in the workplace. Where would technology be today if there was never a gender bias in our world?
Ensmenger, Nathan. (2019, October 4). Gender & Computing. Retrieved from http://homes.sice.indiana.edu/nensmeng/gender.html (Links to an external site.)
Whiting, Beatrice, B. (1984, June). Woman’s Role in Social Change. Retrieved from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/womans-role-social-change (Links to an external site.)
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