A New York Times article ‘Technology’s Man Problem’ cross my stream today. As a women with a computer science degree who used to work in telecommunications (verification analyst, post-sales engineering, and product management), I found it depressing to hear stories of it being worse than it was 15 years ago when that was my primary field. In many ways social media makes the problem worse, which was highlighted well in this article. I count as one of the 51% who do something different – although I would argue that what I do is on the boundary of computer science and education, not truly fitting into either category.
For the first time, I experienced some of the negative culture traits in the Ed Tech world when I was at the #et4online conference. I found at several sessions that men of a particular age felt it OK to dominate conversations. In one session, I sat at a table with two men, and one of the men at the table ignored everything I said. He would speak for the table and only share his views/opinions (to be fair, I think he ignored the other man at the table too). At another session, the person in question dominated the question and answer session – not allowing anyone else in the room to ask questions. The moderator for the session didn’t jump in to ensure others had a chance to ask questions. At a session on Ed Tech startups, the speaker said outright that venture capital funding went predominantly to young males – he made some token comment about being open to funding more women, but it was more of an off-handed remark than a sincere point. There was never a thought that perhaps there was something wrong with this model itself.
At the time, I had chosen not blog about my negative experiences at #et4online, as in general I found it to be a good conference. It was a bit of a turning point for me, helping me to see myself as an Ed Tech Scholar rather than a PhD Student. However, I am a little concerned about the signs of cultural decline.
Now I’m not saying that Ed Tech has a ‘man problem’, I’m merely asking the question. I think it is through asking these questions that we avoid slipping down that negative slope. We do not want to be following the same path as computer science and engineering, fostering hostile cultures that require women to be extra strong (or have extra thick skins) in order to survive/thrive in, and as a result seeing the number reduce over the years when they should be increasing.
What do you think? Does Ed Tech have a ‘man problem’?