A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of the July edition of Elle, which featured an article on ten top women in the tech field (read it here). This article goes hand in hand with the whole discussion on how more women are needed in STEM fields (for facts on gender inequality in STEM, click here!). The Elle article was very interesting read, and I highly suggest it if you have the time.
But, it got me thinking.
Most of the women in their top ten list used crowdsourcing to get their idea out. (Crowdsourcing is using contributions from an online community to obtain services, ideas, or content.) The companies these women work for have all begun in the past 15 years; most of them from a start-up aspect.
These companies aren’t the typical ‘buying and selling of a product’ businesses you would usually think of. I don’t know about you, but normally when I hear the words “start-up,” I think of either developing a new app/mobile solution or a self-designed boutique that sells a specific type of goods.
However, these start-ups, ranging from a website used to crowdfund healthcare for individuals in developing countries to a widget that helps the Internet run faster, all share one thing in common: they directly benefit Internet users.
My real question out of all of this, is: Did the use of the Internet help their companies succeed more because of its anonymity? If someone is pitching an idea to you face to face, you see the person. You notice the gender, the look, the size, the personality of that person head on. First impressions are so very important, and there’s been a lot of talk about women not receiving the amount of respect they deserve in science fields because of the way they look. So, if a woman has the opportunity to boost her company online, is she more likely to be more successful because all the investor can see is pure text, words, about the company? It makes me curious to discern how receptive recipients are to names in situations like that- are people more likely to notice the gender of the founder, given just the name and not a picture?
I’m definitely, in no way, saying that these women did not get where they are today without hard work. It takes an incredible amount of skill, talent, and dedication to start something from nothing, and have it be so recognized in a magazine such as Elle. But, if women really do thrive more when gender is taken out of the equation, then we have clearly been underestimating what women are capable of as a world for centuries.
It’s only with the prominence of the Internet that this can persist. Companies can be born virtually, websites don’t have to contain true information about the founders of such companies until they grow big enough to warrant it. It’s amazing to me that I can book a room in a bed and breakfast in a little village in Belgium (thanks to AirBnB) with the click of a button. We have the power to transform the world digitally, and Elle recognized these women because they are working to do just that.
I do not have a high range of technological skills. I don’t know how to code, although I wish I did. I think everyone should learn how to, seeing as the Internet is not just a “fair weather fad.” It’s not going away any time soon. It is astounding to me what we can accomplish through the use of the Internet, and if gender really is disguised by websites and such, then I’m all the more intrigued.
Bottom line: women are amazing and more tech-savvy than you think.
P.S. If you have any thoughts about gender and tech, send them my way @ firstname.lastname@example.org.