A man’s world?
Then there is gaming, which is massively dominated by men – both in terms of game design and the players themselves. The educational website Women in Computer Science explains how the first computers were built with the boys in mind:
The first personal computers were essentially early gaming systems that firmly catered to males.
Even though the first gaming computers came out over 30 years ago, this is still having an effect today – and the way women are portrayed in computer games has been the subject of much recent discussion.
Female characters are massively underrepresented in computer games – over 85% of all characters in games are male. And when female characters are included, they are often portrayed in a sexy and sexist way.
But although these stereotypes persist, things are gradually changing – with 49% of the British gaming population now female.
It is clear, then, that while things are improving for women in tech, there is still a long way to go before girls in school see computer science as an interesting and viable career choice. And while initiatives like Girls Who Code and Code First: Girls are making a difference, we need a wider societal change to encourage more women to enter the discipline in the future.
Two of the first computer programmers – back when “programming” involved using cables, dials and switches to physically rewire the machine – Jean Bartik and Ada Lovelace were women. And role models who are active today, include Sue Black OBE and Dame Wendy Hall, both receiving honours for their contributions to computing.
These women – recognised as pioneers in computer science – have helped in the creation, development and imagining of what computers and electronics can do in the modern world. And we need more women like Bartik, Lovelace, Black and Hall who can act as role models for young girls, to help spread the word that these days computing isn’t just for the boys.