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 Traditionally, technology has been associated with  rationality,  objectivity and structure; traits oft considered  “masculine” in the  traditional societal definition of gender roles.  While some technologies  have largely been male-dominated, throughout  history, women have had an  often unrecognized presence in making  significant contributions to  these technological advancements. One such  technology would be the  digital computer. While its development is  generally viewed as a product  of male logic and rationality, much of  the progress in this area has  required an intuitive, interactive and  generally less structured  “feminine” approach. These culturally  appropriated gender  characteristics as well as historic gender roles  have had a significant  influence in consumerism and technological  development. In this  activity, you will explore technologies that may  be gender-specific and  evaluate technological innovations that have  shaped current society.  

 

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Briefly discuss the history and association of gender and  technology. How has gender mattered in the historical development and  marketing of technology?

Gender and its relation to the implementation, marketing, and focus  have been a critical center point for technology and its association  throughout history. The bias of gender and technology has more recently  become well documented as the gender bias has started to become less  relevant in more modern history.  Initially, marketing was focused on  women, as they were regarded as the “consumer” for many items. Marketing  used words focused on a feminine audience. In an example of Edison’s  phonograph and motion picture, he refused to accept that his  technologies might be used for socializing over conversations and  romanticizing motion pictures. For this reason, Edison’s competitors  proved victorious as Edison elected to keep his inventions marketed  towards a masculine business purpose.

Provide at least two examples of technologies that are traditionally  considered “masculine” and “feminine.” On what basis are you making the  distinctions?

Initially, computer programming was considered a feminine technology,  as it related to the mathematic work that women did as “computers” for  scientists and physicists. When computer science became a “high-status”  academic discipline, this technology saw a role reversal. With the  high-status title and significant pay increase, men swiftly took over  the role of computer programmers. When women began to occupy meaningful  factory worker jobs that were formally masculine, men began to fill more  white-collar office jobs, thus, leaving the hard and dirty work to the  women. At the same time, men sat in offices at desks.

How is technology helping to reshape traditional gender roles and  gender identities in the 21st century? Provide real-world examples.

Equality in employment is an initial step towards reshaping gender roles in the 21st  century. These reforms have paved the way for women to fulfill the  highest positions in the worlds leading technology companies. Women are  the CEO of many of the world’s top technology companies from Facebook,  to Youtube, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo, and Google, just to name a few.  A “feminine” influence in these world-leading companies will progress  to narrow the gender spheres once used to characterize male and female  roles in technology and consumerism.

What is the driving force behind this breakdown of gender barriers?

Society has adapted to a variety of changes over the past century.  Women rising to the call of duty and proving more than capable of  running America’s factories during WWII was a critical turning point in  the gender roles of the time. I can’t make this statement without  regarding the effects of equality and equal opportunity in the  workplace. Where would technology be today if there was never a gender  bias in our world?

References

Ensmenger, Nathan. (2019, October 4). Gender & Computing. Retrieved from http://homes.sice.indiana.edu/nensmeng/gender.html (Links to an external site.)
Whiting, Beatrice, B. (1984, June). Woman’s Role in Social Change. Retrieved from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/womans-role-social-change (Links to an external site.)
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