Women And Technology: A Perspective On Empowerment

Thong Ming Sen

August 18, 2020

The United States (U.S) elections in 1920 marked the pinnacle of the feminism universal suffrage movement when women were granted the right to vote for the first time in Uncle Sam’s history.

A full century later, the feminism movement has transcended the political domain to encompass a struggle for social and economic equality for the women of our time.

In essence, the central ideological basis of twenty-first century feminism is about respecting women’s rights to equal opportunities and empowering women to fulfil their true potential in all areas of life.

However as the Me Too movement shows, feminism still has a long way to go in terms of eliminating the deeply embedded roots of sexism. Other than the entertainment industry, another sector in which there appears to be prevalent sexism is that of technology.

Case in point is the Donglegate incident which took place back in 2013 during the open-source conference PyCon.

As the story goes, a SendGrid employee which goes by the name Adria Richards posted on Twitter a sexist joke involving dongles which she overheard at PyCon sparking a chain of reaction which entailed the hacking of SendGrid servers and which culminated in the firing of Richard i.e. the funnyman who made the dongle sexist joke at the conference.

It would not be an overstatement to say that the Donglegate incident triggered a sort of cultural revolution in the technology sector particularly in Silicon Valley.

Rise of Feminism in the Technology Sector: Past, Present and Future

As ironic as it sounds given the current conditions in the technology sector, once upon a time in the distant past women were at the forefront of the industry albeit this was prior to the technological boom at a time when technologist jobs were considered as menial ones somewhat akin to pen-pushing jobs.

A classic illustration of this is the fact that women constituted more than half of the programmers who worked on the U.S’ first military computer back in 1946.

Nonetheless, the current outlook for women in the technology sector is not too shabby either as the stewardship of top U.S-based technology household names such as IBM, Youtube and Oracle are helmed by their female CEOs which are namely Ginni Rometty, Susan Wojcicki and Safra Catz respectively.

In a report titled “Women in Technology Leadership 2019” issued by Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), it was highlighted that startups which are founded by women have a tougher time raising capital funding.

In terms of leadership representation, the report noted that almost half of the startups surveyed have no women on their leadership teams though this could be due to the social conditioning of women as they are expected to be pleasant and agreeable which are not traits that are particularly suited for leadership roles.

In general, the report found that the progress towards gender parity in the technology sector is rather slow. So here we are six years on from the Donglegate incident and there is still a lot which remains to be done before women working in the technology sector can stand equal with their male counterparts and be evaluated purely based on their skills and abilities.

A positive push factor in this regard is the launch by Melinda Gates through her investment and incubation arm Pivotal Ventures of the GET (Gender Equality in Tech) Cities initiative which would entail the expenditure of US$50 million over a period of five years to accelerate women’s representation and leadership in Chicago’s technology sector as well as those in two other yet-to-be-named cities.

Nonetheless, the money may be better spent on other countries as the U.S already has the highest number of female chief executive officers (CEOs).

All of Humanity Are Equal

When it comes to empowering women through the feminism movement, actions certainly speak louder than words. Technological powerhouses would always come up with their politically correct rhetoric which present the appearance of gender equality to secure public approval and support.

Nonetheless, it is imperative that gender equality policies be scrutinized closely to assess the extent to which they are translated into action. It is only right that women are afforded their fair chance in life as “all men are created equal” whereby “all men” includes women for all men owe their existence to women i.e. their mothers.

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About the author
Thong Ming Sen

Contributing Author

Combining his professional experience as a corporate legal practitioner with his knowledge of blockchain, Ming Sen finds it fascinating to explore the endless possibilities of blockchain particularly in the regulatory domains of the financial services and capital markets sectors.

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