Posts tagged gender & IT
A new resource from Violence is Not our Culture, this toolkit was inspired by the workshops held in Asia and Africa for the partners and members of the Violence is not our Culture (VNC) campaign. While this toolkit has been designed primarily for the local partners and activists of the VNC campaign, this can be a resource, too, for human rights activists who are keen to develop their online activism and want to know where and how to to start.
We are pleased to announce the publication of Strategising Online Activism: A Toolkit. The toolkit is available for free download and distribution. Click here to download the toolkit!
Through this toolkit we hope that campaigners will acquire the following skills:
- An understanding of why and how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be appropriated by women’s rights and human rights groups in their advocacy skills through their use of online tools, including networking and mobile tools for advocacy and campaigning
- The ability to develop an advocacy / communication strategy
- Knowing what social neworking is and the various spaces and tools they could use in their online activism
- An understanding of online privacy and security issues relevant to building their online activism.
A student emailed me yesterday asking me about gender discrimination in technology (hello Rasha). Here is some of what I replied with:
Yes, of course, gender plays a large role in how everyone views technology. Gender stereotyping starts as early as childbirth and little girls are not expected to excel in math or science or any field of studies that involves logical thinking. So the discrimination starts from there. This is because female genders are (falsely of course) constructed as emotional, unstable, leisurely, not inclined to do hard work because they will eventually get married and sit at home.. as if housework is not hard work. And so this upbringing ripples into adulthood when girls choose university majors, you find a small minority in engineering or programming because they are not careers that are expected of women. And when these careers are dominated by men, you get an inverse gender stereotyping as well, i.e. people think: because there are few women in tech, it must be too challenging for women. We also always face the logical fallacy of generalization when it comes to women. If one woman is bad at something, it is taken that her entire gender is bad at it.
At the same time, women who are extremely successful in tech and have overcome any sort of discrimination are quick to claim that all women can overcome the stereotyping and discrimination if they work hard enough. They often reject the label that they are “female gamers” for example and just want to be “gamers.” 7a22on, of course. Having successful IT women strongly shows that women’s brains indeed are not less capable than men’s (although my attempts to convince my father of this has been futile). But the stats and figures show that they are still a small minority, and we cannot ignore the reasons why so.
So I think these are the main barriers, women eventually grow up to fit their gender stereotype like a self-fulfilling prophecy and they believe that math or economics or technology is too complicated for them. Also, when you are a lone woman in a male-dominated field or company, it’s not easy at all. The boys sometimes develop their own clubs and women are often excluded. I have heard from many people who work in IT in Lebanon that they would rather hire men because they don’t see women as good enough or because they don’t want to deal with women’s maternity leaves or childcare support.
Also, when we talk about tech, it’s not just “easy” things at the micro-level. The decision-makers of the tech industry are mostly men, as are the big CEOs, entrepreneurs, and people calling the shots in things like nanotechnology and biotechnology. Look at robot engineering, for example, when they build robots that are gender-neutral, those are usually male robots. When they build female robots, it’s curvy, sensual, luscious robots that are designed to do housework. The effects of gender stereotyping are subtle and systematic and unconsciously dominant in the whole field.
In ICT usage in specific, I have read stats that say that there are more women on facebook and twitter than men and that their numbers in blogospheres are strong. But the same issues of discrimination also creep into these spaces: whose word has more authority / credibility? Women are also more prone to cyber bullying or stalking and to experience violence online as well. That’s why we work on reclaiming these ICTs to counter violence against women, to amplify women’s voices and experiences.
If you search for the word “feminist” on YouTube, the first mass of results you will get are woman-bashing “shut up and make me a sandwich” videos. Sexism also seeps into the comments on most feminist-oriented work online. And, generally, people are more aggressive online than they are in person because of the nature of the communication (anonymity, lack of accountability, lack of cyber laws, etc..).
And so our work to empower women using ICTs must focus on building their advanced skills and capacity to create the programs, websites, and blogs that support what they have to say. We are in desperate need of generating zegabytes of online content to counter the sexist and violent content that is already there. The cool thing about the Internet is that it is – sort of – a level playing field for everyone. If you have something good to say, people will listen. If you can use ICT tools intelligently, you have a good chance of getting your voice heard, as opposed to mainstream media where you need money and power to set up the technology. When you ask women to speak up, they will. We also have a need to inspire women to understand their gender oppression. For example, at the recent ArabNet conference, panelists were discussing e-commerce in the Middle East and all they could refer to when it came to women online shoppers was clothes and shoes and accessories. And there is the ad on some Arabic cable channel that pisses me off big time where a husband buys a laptop and a wife buys perfume. Why doesn’t the wife buy a laptop?? Shou hal 7aki hayda. But as long as we shut up about it, the majority of our women will really believe that their purchasing priorities should be fashion w ta2 7anak as opposed to cameras, laptops, smart phones, etc.
Therefore, we must always speak up, and you must come join us and help us balance out gender discrimination in tech.
Here’s a video of an interview with me done by someone from APC about the internet and gender issues in Lebanon. This was during the CSW in New York last March. What we can definitely learn from this interview is that I talk too much.
Friends, Arab Techies & SMEX have teamed up to host a meeting in Lebanon on May 11 – May 15. The objective is for women techies to meet up, exchange skills & ideas, discuss collaborations, talk about tech from a gender perspective, and network. I met with @jessdheere last week and had previously met @manal two years ago, the two women working on this meeting & proposed that our new Take Back the Tech / Arabia program which we just launched at Nasawiya two weeks ago partner up with the organizers to support young women using technology for social change.
The agenda of the meeting is very flexible. Participants will be proposing different workshops they’d like to give / receive. It’s very open & we can ensure it turns out to be a kickass empowering feminist meeting! So please read more here and email email@example.com to participate. The organizers are sponsoring 30 female participants from across the Arab world. Join us! Feel free to contact me as well if you need to ask or suggest anything. The main criteria are:
- Techie (i.e. works with technology, not only internet technology but also communications, engineering, software, hardware, etc..)
- Interested in the intersection of gender and tech
- Able to come to Lebanon May 11 – 1
Yalla hurry up! They’re on a rolling deadline – as soon as the participants are closed, they will close.
Please forward to all of your friends who might be interested!
The very talented (and extremely sweet) Maya Zankoul gave us a workshop at Nasawiya on how to express our feelings & document our everyday life through illustration. Those of us (like me) who lack the talent and finesse can still use basic drawings to deliver messages. It is not the sophistication of the artwork but the ability to communicate a message powerfully that counts. During the workshop, Maya asked us to draw an incident that bugged us, so I drew a true story that happened to me & Ran last week. Yes, 3am darib 3ala Maya Zankoul Enjoy!
Some pics taken by the awesome @69mirs from @naeema‘s fantastic workshop on optimizing images for the web at Nasawiya happening live right now. Special thanks to @monajem and @smexbeirut for lending us the projector.
Soon to take place on March 25 & 26, ArabNet 2010 is the “first international conference for the Arab web industry, bringing together leaders from across the MENA, Europe and Silicon Valley to discuss cutting-edge trends and emerging opportunities. Through pitch sessions, the conference will feature the region’s brightest ideas and most promising Internet start-ups, and connect them with the internet ecosystem: incubators, angel investors, venture capitalists, established Internet companies, NGO’s and influential bloggers.”
So it’s an excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs who have brilliant ideas for Internet companies to pitch their ideas to potential investors. Have you been sitting on a great idea? Do you have the next Yamli.com or Facebook up your sleeve? Remember, even Google started as an idea that two college boys had.
Now, to the important part. As you have guessed by now, I am a feminist, and my readings in feminism have taught me to always look at such a terrific opportunity through a gender lens. My first impression is that most of the submissions will be made by men. Why? Many reasons. 1) More men study techie majors in college than women because of the imbalance in perception of gendered jobs. 2) More men want to be entrepreneurs than women because men are seen as the bread-winners, the money-makers, and women are encouraged to have a steady job or stay at home and get an allowance from their fathers or husbands. 3) Although completely untrue and unfounded, people in our region generally tend to think that brilliant ideas (start-ups especially) come from men, not women. Save for Oprah Winfrey, the majority of start-up billionaire stories are those of men. Think about it. In our region, also men come to mind, although I immediately think of Razan Khatib from Jordan as a pioneering woman entrepreneur. And finally 4) as women, we are raised to believe we are not good enough. Now this might be a hard concept to stomach, but it’s true. Often, we are under the illusion that women believe they can be as good as men, especially if we are middle-class, college-educated women. But they don’t.
Anyway, all of this to say that I would like to support any young Arab woman who would like to make a pitch to ArabNet 2010. I have some years of experience in start-ups and business plan writing, and I can give you a pep talk! Simply get in touch. I also invite all experienced techie & business women who would like to join me in supporting young women to raise their hands (i.e. leave a comment) so that we can raise more support & encourage more women to make a pitch.