Open Letter to All the Women in the New Technologies

by June Campbell, 1996

You know who you are. You're the women who surf the Internet. You're computer literate. You use CD ROMS. Your VCR still flashes "12:00," but only because you can't be bothered changing it twice a year. Some of you work with the new technologies. You design Web Sites. You produce digitized graphical art. You do computerized animations. You edit video. You produce CD - ROMS ......

Are you as puzzled as I am by the strange reaction we sometimes get from our women friends? You've heard it all, right? The arguments, the debates, the disinterest or even downright hostility? The suggestion that somehow women in technology aren't really, well, quite.... feminine?

"It's male dominated," they say. True. Two third of the Internet users are male. Most multimedia workers are male. But good grief, it's male dominated because we aren't there. The guys aren't in conspiracy to keep us out.

"It's a male way of doing things. It's a male way of thinking, this business of interacting through machines instead of face to face," they say. Well, okay, then. But does this mean they're opposed to using say, the telephone? Or the fax machine? And what about letter writing, a traditionally female activity? Nothing face to face about a letter, now is there? And if this is a male way of thinking, then what does this say about us, the women who are in the field? Are we... uh..... mutants?

"Its a way of avoiding people and not relating to others." I've been told. I'm assuming, of course, that they never bury themselves in a book or watch television or go for a solitary walk. And what about women who work in factories or women who work in data entry or women who work in fish plants? There's not much meaningful human interaction going on when you're splashing through tubs of smelly herring.....

"The Internet is full of pornography and perverts." Hmmm. The rest of the world isn't? Are these people all centered in this one spot? If so, maybe it's serving a good purpose to keep them rounded up in one place. But let's be honest about this. You find on the Internet what you go looking for. In three years of surfing, I've never once found a pornographic site or run into a Cyberpervert by accident. The Web is huge, you see, and you navigate using big search engines. If you type in "African Violets;"that's exactly what you'll find. But if you type in a naughty word, then don't be too surprised if you locate something racy. (And oh yes, there's an easy way to keep your kids away from the smut.)

So why should these women get involved in the new technologies? Okay, so its fun, it's creative, it's a great source of information. It helps us catch up with what our kids already know. It's an efficient way to communicate with people. There's all that stuff. But the biggie is because these skills put dollars in the paycheck. Instead of complaining about the widening gap between mens' and women's wages, they'd be better off going after the opportunities that are out there.

Did I mention I'm not a kid? I'm the grandmother of three. I can remember when my mother and her chums refused to drive a car. "A man's interest," they said.

The more things change the more they stay the same.


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