Mar 6, 2012

What if Steve Jobs had been a woman?

By Juliet Webster, Gender and ICT Programme (IN3, UOC) Director

We have seen huge improvements in gender equality in recent decades. Women have made major advances in key areas of social life: in the world of work, in educational access and performance, and in securing and exercising political and social rights.

However, there are persistent and stubborn forms of gender inequality. The gap between men's and women's pay remains significant: throughout the EU, women earn on average 18% less than their male counterparts with equivalent qualifications and experience. Women also remain remarkably under-represented in top jobs, disappearing from career ladders as they ascend. Even though today women make up about 60% of university graduates in the EU (often with better qualifications than their male counterparts), they are only 16.1% of board members of Fortune 500 companies. And persistent labour market segregation means that women continue to be over-represented in low-status, low-skill, and low-paid service jobs. This both bolsters inequality and simultaneously under-utilises a huge potential talent pool.

«We are seeing major transformations in our ways of communicating, working, accessing services, being citizens —transformations in which gender identities and relations are central—. But where are the women shapers of these changes?»

Despite this stubborn lack of progress, at another level we are seeing major transformations in our ways of communicating, working, accessing services, being citizens —transformations in which gender identities and gender relations are central—. But where are the women shapers of these changes? About 25% of all employees work in high technology knowledge intensive services, but only 2.4% of those are women. These are occupations which have high-status, high influence, and high pay. Given the centrality of these activities and their associated technologies to us all, it is deeply worrying that women are so noticeably under-represented there.

It is sometimes assumed that if women do not enter computing, engineering or other technological occupations, it is because they simply do not want to. In our increasingly individualised societies, in which we all apparently exercise autonomy, self-determination and, above all, choice, feminist ambitions to dismantle patriarchy and its structuring social relations are often seen as outdated. Yet women have been fairly consistently under-represented in —and sometimes actively excluded from— technological work over time and across cultures. This points to a deeper problem. Power relations, differences in access to both technical and social capital, stereotypes, and constrained social roles, all affect the real choices that individual women can exercise in their educational and career pathways. This is well-known. There is much less consensus about how to address these issues in practical terms, and what implications —for women, for societies, and also for the technologies— would flow from a more equal gender balance in technological endeavours.

«In a society where we all apparently exercise autonomy, self-determination and, above all, choice, feminist ambitions to dismantle patriarchy and its structuring social relations are often seen as outdated»

So what if Steve Jobs had been a woman? During the late 1970s, when both Jobs and Steve Wozniak were building their first computers and simultaneously the Apple company, computing was a highly masculine playground. It had not always been so, but by the time these two men, and their counterparts in other computing companies, were constructing the forerunners of today's world-dominating computer systems, women had been edged out of the field, never to return in significant numbers. What would have happened if they had remained, and had played a central, or even a dominating, role in the development of today's systems? Perhaps, instead of Microsoft, Google and Apple, we would today have high-tech companies founded and run by women? Perhaps more pluralism of approaches to computing? Different designs? Different labour practices? Who knows which revolutions would have happened —how the sector, the technologies, and our Information Society, or societies, would have unfolded— if we had had not only a Steve Jobs but also a female, equal, counterpart to him.

6 comments :

  1. Congratulations for this blog!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gladwell says that Jobs’s “sensibility was editorial, not inventive.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What if Steve Jobs had been a woman? so, steve jobs is not a man.. :D

    ReplyDelete


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