A friend was telling me her husband is thinking of buying their six year old daughter a kids computer programming thingumijig for Christmas.
“What, you want to turn your daughter into a geek, do you?” I teased.
“Rather than wanting her to be pretty and popular, you mean?” she retorted.
Touche, Mrs L, touché!
Computers and other programmed gadgets are increasingly fundamental to life as we know it. For our children, they will have no other way of being, will never have known anything else.
So? So…understanding how technology works, being confident with it, and knowing how to manage it will open up a world of possibilities, being able to be a Really Useful Geek. It might even make you a fortune, just look at Mr Microsoft, Mr Apple, Mr IBM, Mr Google, Mr Name-any-other-massive-multi-billion-dollar-techie-enterprise-started-by-a-geek-or-two.
Hang on. I didn’t see any Miss, Ms or Mrs in that list. What’s going on?
Now, I’m sure there are some leading light lady geeks out there raking in the profits from their techy-ness, but isn’t it interesting that the ones that trip off my tongue are all of the swinging appendage variety (pendulous boobs excepted of course… then again…)? Even a quick google search hasn’t given me any comparable world-beating female techie founding… umm… mothers.
In fact, digging into where we actually are in the UK on the first step on that road – girls studying maths and computers – I found a startling statistic in this great article. Figures show that although in 2011 there was a 60-40 male-female split in those taking A-level maths, the rate was 92-8 in computer science.
Wow. No wonder there aren’t so many Miss, Ms or Mrs tech geek success stories out there, at least, on this side of the pond. Is being a geek the new feminist frontier, I wonder? Women who aren’t frightened of technology and how it works, who make it work for them and do cool stuff with it. Is that what we should want for our daughters?
I can’t think why not (yes, Mrs L, you are entitled to feel smug here). It doesn’t mean they can’t be good at other stuff, does it. What it might do is mean they get further along their educational journey believing they are as capable as their brothers or male peers at technology and, possibly more importantly, finding it fun, interesting and useful. They can feel in control of it, not vice versa.
And despite my pretty strong maths / engineering education, I wonder if Little H sees enough tech-savvy-ness at home to help her down that road. Well, sees it from me, really, if I’m honest. Because even if you are a girl who got and enjoyed maths at school, even if you studied engineering, even if you went so far as to learn a little bit of C++, you can still be someone who shouts at your phone/ipad/pc/sky box/game console. You can still be helpless after you’ve tried turning said device off and on again. You can still routinely wonder if throwing or hitting a device would help. You can still defer demurely to male resilience and enthusiasm in the face of broken technology. Geek chic might have a way to go, but I think it’s worth a shot. How about you?