Computer Literacy Not Just For The Boys

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Often in our society, there are certain things that are typically associated with girls and boys. Take for example the colors pink and blue – pink for girls, blue for boys. Or how about dolls for girls and trucks for boys. Of course as we know, either boys or girls can prefer either dolls or trucks or whatever color they happen to like, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact until as recently as the last decade, many of these stereotypical associations were still considered ‘normal’ and accepted.

According to Smithonian.com, the trend of blue for boys and pink for girls has been developing for some time now, however in the 18th century most babies were garbed in frilly white dresses that could easily be lifted when the baby needed to be changed. They were also simple to clean in case the contents of the diaper soiled the garment as they were bleached clean. Colors weren’t introduced until the mid 19th century however neither was geared towards either boys or girls. It wasn’t until later that stores that sold the garments made recommendations as to which color was considered more appropriate, but there was some attempted justification, suggesting that pink, being a stronger and bolder color, should be the color of choice for boys, whereas blue, being softer and daintier should be reserved for girls. It wasn’t until the 1940s however that manufacturers had settled on pink for girls and blue for boys, and society has since adopted this as the norm.

It seems silly really, that we now associate these colors so easily with either sex given that it was perhaps something as plain as market conditions or research that lead to one preference over the other because there isn’t anything that has ever said it needed to be this way. Yet here we are only now acutely aware of when a boys is wearing pink or a girl, blue.

Women In Tech

It’s not that there have never been women working in the tech industry before now, there always have been. What’s weird is how lopsided the industry has been, dominated mostly by men since modern tech could be considered an industry all its own. Much like women working in science for the couple of hundred years leading up to the 20th century, women in tech has been taboo and you can’t help but wonder whether the same mentality that supported such disparity is also partially responsible for supporting the argument that pink is for girls.

The thinking that modern society has about issues like this however seems to be changing, or at the very least is beginning to recognize this disparity and is asking such valid questions as “Why?” Why indeed. Women are more willing to enter a field that historically has been dominated by men and we need to continue to encourage this if we want to thrive. This encouragement could be something as simple as changing the way in which studies are conducted.

This small change could come in the form classroom design and atmosphere. For example, research shows that this disparity is due in large part to the number of women that are enrolling in computer science and Online Technology Courses. One way to encourage more women to enrol may be to lower the “geeky” feeling of a course and design them to be more inviting. Classroom design, research shows, can encourage stereotypes as to who belongs in a computer science program and who doesn’t. Identity and a sense of belonging are important for adolescents. The National Science Foundation conducted research that looked into how something as simple as the environment in which the studies took place affected students. Teens between the ages of 14 to 18 years were shown two images. One was of a typical geeky computer science classroom where there were computer parts laying about and star trek and science fiction posters on the walls. The other classroom had pictures of art and nature on the walls and was also decorated with plants. 68% of girls preferred the non stereotypical room, and were three times more likely to enrol in a computer science course if the classroom looked like the later. Interesting.

Times Are Changing How we Learn

Another small change that has become more accepted and common is to study online and outside of a classroom environment. This means that all students are free to learn at their own pace in an environment that is suited to them. The added benefit to taking studies from home is that it accelerates the paradigm shift of equality for women in all sectors where women can freely learn what they want to learn without fear of being judged for wanting to be a robotics technician for example.

Despite this however, it still seems weird that we need to find ways to encourage this line of thinking in the first place as everyone, regardless of sex should be free and encouraged to learn and help better humanity regardless of what industries they want to be a part of.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.