Girls and technology: what's next?
A February 21 New York Times article ("Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain") states that teenage girls far outnumber teenage boys in the creation of web content such as blogs, web sites, and original graphics. Some of these teens have created viable businesses out of their online efforts, such as Chloe Spencer of The Ultimate Neopets Cheats Site and Martina Butler of Emo Girl Talk.
In the working world of adults, however, the number of women in computer-related fields is still very small, with women holding only 27 percent of such jobs. In the next decade, will we see vast changes in the gender balance of the tech industry?
The New York Times piece holds the less-than-optimistic view that while girls outnumber boys in web content creation, those same girls are not trending toward advanced programming classes, undergraduate majors in computer science or math, and the like. It attributes this to girls being attracted to creative use of existing technology, rather than the invention of new technology.
I'm not so quick to wring my hands, though.
With each passing day, I think it makes less and less sense to draw a dividing line between what constitutes a computer-related field and what doesn't. We're very rapidly coming to a point where such lines are not only arbitrary, they're downright moot. As technology, and especially web technology, moves into more aspects of our lives, we can see it fitting comfortably into jobs that never before would've been considered "technical" -- such as teaching, healthcare, real estate, public relations, food service, and countless more. A fundamental tenet of social media is that it connects people and enhances our ability to do what we already love doing.
Maybe the real question, then, is not whether the blogging/coding/podcasting girls of today will grow up to become software engineers, but to what kinds of interesting and innovative uses they will apply their skills in their chosen field. We'll just have to wait and see, but my sans crystal ball prediction is that we won't be disappointed.