Today I am very pleased to announce that my former boss at VG and I have launched a new network for women who are passionate about technology. It is launched in Beta and we have yet to decide how we are going to move forward and what our game plan is, but it is exciting to have gotten it out there. My partner Camilla is extremely talented, creative and passionate about technology so I think it has the potential to turn out pretty awesome. I for one cannot wait to connect with other girls my age and trade useful resources, trends and tech-events with each other. When I moved home from New York I found that the Tech-bubble I had gotten so comfortable living in did not exist in Norway. I couldn't seem to find any women deeply passionate about tech, wearables, software tools... However, there is not a lack of men interested in technology. They are everywhere, carving their way up to executive positions.
I followed a very important series on NPR before the summer, called Woman in Technology. Featuring a variety of female innovators in tech they were able to produce in depth stories, insights and key facts and figures about females position in the tech industry. The series helped open my eyes to the importance of women taking a stand in what has become a highly male dominated industry.
Just this past week I heard an interesting story on Planet Money about why women stopped coding. Apparently the marketing industry has had quite an influence on womans role in tech. In 1984, when computers began entering households for the first time, they were marketed to young men as a way to play games. Women started to shy away because computer-ads were so heavily focused on science fiction movies with typical male audiences. Computers were given to the boys, or placed in their rooms. Even though I was one of the first ones to enter the computer class in first grade, I was the only one of 15 guys and 3 girls. And when I didn't understand it, I felt stupid and would shy away. Our teacher was male and he focused on teaching us games. The girls were not interested in games. We wanted to create nice invitations for birthday parties and create pretty presentations for each other. Not surprisingly, my younger brother got our families first laptop, and I was lucky enough to inherit it two years later.
I intend to encourage my children equally in all subjects in school. I hope that by the time I have kids, computer science is a required class in middle-school. But more importantly, when we teach young girls about computers; teach it to them in a way that appeals to them. Studies from Harvard show that when it comes to technology, women are interested in learning what more they can do with it. Guys are interested in why they are able to do what they know. Both are important skills, but when you teach a class described as "how technology X works", that is not going to appeal to women.
In fact, a very interesting study was conducted at a school in California. The university wanted to increase the 10% female presence in computer science classes and were successful- times four! How? It was a 3 step process including changing the name of the class from “Introduction to programming in Java” to “Creative approaches to problem solving in science and engineering using Python.”
Apparently, using words like creative and problem solving seemed more approachable to women. I find this fascinating. Women and men are not driven or motivated by the same things. By taking into account the passion and needs of women, the school was able to increase the female to male ratio from 10-90 to 40-60.
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Have you ever noticed that whenever you are in a meeting and the power point won`t work someone immediately cries for a "tech-guy"? If a girl gets up I am ashamed to say that I am both proud and surprised. It is has become one of those unnoticeable moments we experience on a weekly basis. The frequency of a male getting up to "fix the tech" has made us blind to the fact that women should be and are very capable of "fixing the tech" it as well. And it goes both ways; I can't remember the last time a manager asked a man to take notes or get coffee during a meeting.
Women have come a long way in Norway. We still have a long way to go, but we are further ahead than most other cities I have been to. There is no time to lay back and reap the benefits of what our previous generations have fought. This is not a competition between men and women. It is the scientific fact that we are better together. The belief in one gender does not indicate the disbelief in another. I believe that women are capable of becoming equally interested in technology as men. There is no doubt that they are out there. Now I am looking forward to connecting with them, encouraging and learning from them.