By Carolyn Danckaert, co-founder, A Mighty Girl.
1 These types of perceptions encourage parents to intervene more quickly when their daughters are engaged in “risky” behaviors leading, over time, to girls’ decreasing confidence in their own abilities and willingness to take risks.
As Sarah grew, she would have discovered a significant difference in the types of toys offered to her versus boys. A 2009 study from the psychology journal Sex Roles found that 31% of toys marketed towards girls were focused on a girl’s appearance whereas 46% of those marketed towards boy were focused on activities.2 As a result, Sarah would have begun to internalize a message that girls are passive and defined by their looks while boys are defined by their actions.
«Starting from Sarah's inculcation for risk aversion as a baby to the lack of female technology mentors at her university, the odds would have been heavily stacked against her»
Once Sarah went to college, it would have been highly unlikely that she would have chosen to major in computer science. While women in the US now receive 57% of bachelor’s degrees, less than 14% of computer science degrees are awarded to women.3 This disparity continues into the workforce where, according to a US Department of Commerce report, women hold half of the jobs in the US but less than a quarter of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) positions. Of course, this would not bode well for Sarah’s future earnings as women with STEM jobs earn 33% more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs. In this same report, the authors cite a few of the possible factors behind this discrepancy between women and men in STEM fields as being attributable to: “a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields.”
Given that all of these facts and figures are focused on the current reality for girls and women, it’s logical to assume that these types of disparities would be all the more extreme when Steve Jobs was a child fifty years ago. So then, to answer the central question, if Steve has been born Sarah would she have emerged as the great technology innovator and business leader that Steve became? Starting from her inculcation for risk aversion as a baby to the lack of female technology mentors at her university, the odds would have been heavily stacked against her.
«Countless girls and women do not fully realize their potential as technology innovators and that loss is not just their own but society’s as well»
Of course, exceptional people beat the odds all the time and Sarah Jobs may have been one of those exceptional individuals. Even so, countless girls and women do not fully realize their potential as technology innovators and that loss is not just their own but society’s as well. Encouraging and enabling more women to follow Steve Jobs’ path will require widespread changes ranging from decreasing the gender stereotyping that girls encounter from a very young age to creating more mentorship programs for female high school and college students. There’s no doubt that the opportunities for girls and women today are far beyond what they were in Steve Jobs’ youth but, for the sake of all the current and future Sarah Jobs, we’re got a long way yet to go.