Thursday, January 12, 2012

I am the IT guy!

Stereotypes, we ever really grow out of them? How can our society move past them? Why do people ask for the IT guy? I am the IT guy in our department; the Instructional Technology (and sometimes the Information Technology) guy.

Last semester I was working with a student on his iPad for my course. He was having difficulty connecting to the Internet at home. He said he first called a friend of his, who asked, "Have you asked your professor, I'm sure HE knows how to help you?"

I was out in one of our local schools in November helping a teacher load her SMARTboard software when a student said, "I thought you would be a guy." When I asked why she thought this, she said, "all technology people are guys." 

The first year I taught my ED 6030: Technology in Education course, students repeatedly referenced me as a 'he' or 'him' in emails to others before they saw my first name or my face. Scenarios similar to these happen quite often to me.

In a recent article published in Campus Technology, statistics show women only hold 21.4% of approximately the 2,600 executive positions in higher education IT. The article suggests women to start taking recognition and pursuing careers in technology as opposed to waiting for them. Reflecting on this I have to wonder why women are so hesitant to acknowledge their hard work and seek out ways to move up. Is it the technology piece holding them back or their environment? As far as higher education professors, I feel surrounded by women colleagues who love to chat about instructional technology practices and the newest gadgets seen in the classrooms. However, when I visit schools for my students' service learning projects and to set up partnerships through my courses, I often find myself meeting with the IT guy.

While dedicated educators demand the STEM initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to be integrated in all areas of learning in schools, my prediction is that more girls will see the fun in technology and gravitate towards more technology-driven fields. I often read how technology is becoming more attractive to the female population with a variety of colors and advertisement geared towards the  'girly'  interests. Not everything is black and gray anymore. That being said, not all girls like pink or orange macbooks. I'm sure you have seen the little girl, Riley, on You Tube ranting about boyish toys. She explains that some girls like superheroes and some girls like princesses!  With the new release of Lego "Friends", girls will now be able to choose from a variety of lego systems which they could find appealing.

Another study came out this week showing women buy more technology than men. Park Associates surveyed 2,000 consumers to find out the reasons behind the technology they were purchasing. The study showed most women purchase technology because of the ease of using that particular technology tool. The only category men out purchased women on where LCD TVs, I don't think that's a surprise!  However, what some did find surprising was that more women like gaming systems than men.  As Jill Braff, executive VP of digital commerce for HSN, shared, "“It’s also not just about features – it’s about simplicity, the seamless use of technology and how technology fits into your lifestyle.”

Perhaps if we find ways to make technology relevant to girls' lives we can close this gap between men and women in STEM fields. I know I will... IT is possible!

(Note: here is an example of one program out there which encourages STEM for girls: )

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