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Technology and Gender Equality

There are a myriad of ways in which technologies can reinforce gender inequalities; let’s look at some of the reasons why gender equality in technology development matters.
an illustration depicting a series of icons, including a mobile phone, the pronouns they/them, two figures speaking, and a microchip, all interconnected by a series of a lines, conveying the different topics covered in the course.
© Creative Computing Institute

There are a myriad of ways in which technologies can reinforce gender inequalities, let’s look at some of the reasons why gender equality in technology development matters.

Technology and Gender Inequality

The technology industry is hugely imbalanced in terms of gender, race and ability. Globally, men make up between 70 to 90% of all roles (1). If technologies aren’t designed to represent, include and meet the needs of all genders, then huge numbers of the world’s population miss out on opportunities and benefits that they have a right to. Increasing attention on the need for diversity and inclusion is a force for change in the technology industry, with major companies making commitments to change their practices and build more equitable workplaces. None of these commitments, however, are an overnight fix, and some companies have failed to meet their own goals (2).

The Impact of Technology

Technologies have become completely integrated into our lives, and it is estimated that there are around 30 billion internet-connected devices in 2021, with that number expected to rise to 125 billion by 2030 (3). That’s around 14 devices for every person on the planet. From our phones and smartwatches to facial recognition software and recruitment algorithms, technologies operate as a reflection of the decisions of the people who created them, as well as the larger social structures they are created within.

Sexism by Design

For example, there has been criticism of voice assistants that perpetuate harmful stereotypes about women (4), and uphold binary notions of gender which invalidate trans and non-binary people (5). This reflects both a lack of diversity within design teams as well as long-term historical sexism.

Challenging Sexism in Technology

So how do we address these issues? Technology isn’t going anywhere, so if we don’t address these problems now they will only continue to grow. We need to rethink how we are designing technologies by embedding gender-inclusive practices into our design processes. We need to gain the confidence to challenge sexism and transphobia in the tech industry, changing workplace cultures so that everyone’s experiences are valued. A more equal future for technology is possible if we all work towards it.

What are your thoughts on the points raised here? Do you think the technology industry is making an effort to be more inclusive?

References:

  1. Georgina Varley, 2018. Women In Tech By Country, Women of Silicon Roundabout.
  2. Yasmin Khorram, 2020. Tech companies say they value diversity, but reports show little change in the last six years, CNBC.
  3. Nick G., 2021. How Many IoT Devices Are There In 2020?, Tech Jury.
  4. EQUALS and UNESCO, 2019. I’d Blush If I Could: Closing Gender Divides In Digital Skills Through Education.
  5. Kyle Wiggers, 2021. Researchers find Conventional Voice AI Overlooks Trans and Non-binary users, Venture Beat.
© Creative Computing Institute
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Gender-Inclusive Approaches in Technology

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