Jul 25, 2013

Challenging the "normal" gender order in society

By Ann-Christin Nyberg, gender and innovation researcher.

I bought my first Macintosh in the 1980s when I was an engineering student. It was radically different from all other computers I had seen: user friendly with an appealing design but also very expensive for a student like me. I really desired and loved it, as I later have come to desire and love other inventions brought to the world by Steve Jobs and others. Inventions that many of us now take for granted and use almost every day, innovations that have made an impact on society. That technology, intertwined with society as it is today, is often made by men for other men is problematic for many reasons. For instance, the shaping of society is not very democratic when women in general have so little influence.

What if Steve Jobs had been a woman? Would it have made a difference? When it comes to technology, women's talent has often been overlooked in society, and it still is sometimes. Men are often, on the other hand, expected to know technology by nature rather than by training and experience. Discriminating norms and practises concerning gender and technology still persist. Hence, probably none of Steve Jobs' brilliant ideas would have come to exist if he had been a woman. She would have encountered many additional obstacles that Steve probably never even would have imagined existed.

«The shaping of society is not very democratic when women in general have so little influence»

There are of course always exceptions to the rule. Some women have indeed succeeded in extremely male dominated contexts, despite opposition and structural barriers. Hence, there is a slight chance that Apple’s brilliant inventor and charismatic business leader could have been a woman. Today there are some women at high levels in the ICT industry, for example Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo. Women in technology are important since they challenge to some extent the “normal” gender order in society where technology is considered to be a men’s thing. They bring hope that discrimination can be brought to an end and a more egalitarian and meritocratic society can be formed.

There is a lot to gain for society, its organizations and individuals from making the ICT industry more inclusive. Due to their marginalised position women may well be “the rebels” who see things differently today. As Steve Jobs put it: “The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” With access to technology on equal terms, the Steve Jobs of tomorrow may just as well be women as men. Let’s make it happen! “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”


  1. Technology is, some sort of, related to engineering in my opinion. To me, the reason why women are less involved in innovation or technology development is that they are less interested in engineering than men do. Therefore, I don’t believe that women are less talented in this context but rather they might be less interested.

  2. «The shaping of society is not very democratic when women in general have so little influence» very good, thank you so much...