It is International women’s day and this year’s focus is on DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality. Currently, there exists a wide gender gap in the IT space and the reason is that, for years, women have beloved that technology was just for men. Given our history, this is actually a ridiculous ideology because the first programmer ever was a woman. A mathematician, Ada Lovelace created a programming code in the 1800s, and paved the way for computers today.
In the 1900s, Hedy Lamarr, who doubled as an actress and inventor developed the technology that runs our GPS, Bluetooth Wi-Fi, as we know them now.
There are a host of other incredible women in history who has been in the IT field yet a gender gap exists and women still think that sciences are solely for men.
These limiting beliefs have cost us and have caused women to be excluded from innovations. As a result, many inventions that have been created haven’t been produced with women in mind.
For example, when artificial hearts were first created in 2013, there were a lot heavier than normal hearts and only 20% of women could use them. Contrast that to 86% of men who qualified for and could undergo a transplant with that heart.
A few years ago, two men created a “solution” for women’s periods and got huge VC funding yet the solution they created wasn’t helpful or relevant for women in any way! Many women hated the idea and felt really upset that investors actually took them seriously. Of course, the investors were men too.
Another key one is that for a long term voice recognition technology using AI had some difficulty responding to women’s voice commands because it was created by men.
There are more devastating effects we see in innovations being created because more women are not in the room!
Yet, women have been great pioneers in the industry and have contributed significantly to the development of science and technology in the world.
We often say that when there’s gender equality, and more women are actively involved in the tech space, we will be able to have more diverse opinions, voices, and innovations. This will bring about creativity, foster inclusion and help us to see things from different perspectives – and solve more real-world problems.
Since the goal of technology is to improve lives, then, we must include women. When women bring their expertise and experiences to the fore, we’ll have better inventions tailored to cater to the entire population: and not just to men alone.
The best way to achieve this will be to remind more women that from our rich history, women have always been involved in technology. We just forgot and it has cost us a lot. Now, we need to take our place and advance the industry we’ve helped shape. We need to start from early childhood to inculcate in our girls the desire to change the world through technology. We should also promote, applaud and celebrate women who are contributing to technology today.
We should herald women such as Melanie Perkins, co-founder of Canva: a simple design app that helps individuals, business owners, educators, professionals, and brands create simple designs without breaking the bank. The app allows non-profits to use it for free too. Recently, Canva celebrated 15 billion designs that have been created on the app!
Girls need to also learn about women like Mira Murati, Chief Technology Officer of popular artificial intelligence company OpenAI (makers of ChatGPT – the current chat-based AI that is making the waves in recent times), and other women in robotics, machine learning, deep tech and so on.
Bu shedding the spotlight on these women, highlighting their achievements, and showing girls that they too can make a difference, we’ll see more girls and women venturing into science and technology and changing the world for good!
Happy International Women’s Day.