“It’s a male-dominated world!” “Tech is built for men!” For decades this has been the gospel truth depicting the calibration and default settings of the world today. But there’s hope. Things are changing. The future looks to sensitize against such matters and change history. Women all over the world are making huge strides in the world of tech. Venture capital funds and tech firms are recruiting more women giving rise to a new generation of fem-tech.
‘A Mans World’
Image Courtesy NewyorkerMale centeredness, especially technological, results in widespread voids, in public understanding of women’s lives. Design teams are male-dominated and they rarely consider perspective when it comes to tech and apps. Once an idea gets the green light it will then be handled by product-design and engineering teams, three-quarters of whose members are men.
These teams often use data to make decisions, but lumping all users together means they may fail to spot trends based on sex differences. Reliance on historical data and the sparsity of data on underrepresented groups can also create bias in algorithms. For example, Smartphones, gaming controllers and the like are too big for an average women’s hands.
Most technology products developed for women do not appeal to women’s intelligence or sense of adventure. They are intended to improve the user’s physical appearance, propagating the idea that women need technology only to make themselves look better.
Women have other needs that aren’t necessarily being met. A good example is when Apple released a health app that completely ignored menstruation, a bodily function experienced by more than half the world’s human population at some point in their lives. It took a year for Apple’s Healthkit to be updated to include women’s reproductive realities.
98% of games come with built-in boy characters, compared to only 46% that offer girl characters. The real kicker, however, is that in 90% of the games, the male characters are free. Even Crash-test dummies are based on the ‘average’ male, putting more women’s lives at risk.
Change Is Coming
It’s not Silicon Valley’s fault that we live in a male-dominated, sex-segregated society and labour market. But it is Silicon Valley’s responsibility to anticipate its own failings and work to address them, preferably before its products hit the market.
According to an article by CIO in 2000, women and girls lacked interest in technology. Not because it is too difficult or abstract or “male” for them to grasp, but because technology has not been developed with their preferences and interests in mind. However, that is not the case today. There are a lot more women in the tech industry influencing a lot of the decisions made when it comes to inventions and tech designs.
The federal government replaced an average-size male dummy with a smaller female dummy for some tests. Male based design bias has significantly reduced. Smartphones, laptops and controllers are being made more compatible for women. Smaller, more colourful designs are being released into the tech world influencing the usability of this tech by women. Women definitely have a say in the future of tech and it looks like the stage is set for them.