Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The enigma of women in technology

Several years ago, Simon Hewitt (one of our top bloggers here at MCC International) visited Bletchley Park for a new business meeting. The meeting went well, but we were both particularly interested in looking around the museum, getting up close to the Enigma machine and discussing old war films.

This week, the National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park has opened the Google-sponsored Women in Computing Gallery. The event acknowledges the important role of woman in technology past and present (and I hope future). Given their huge contribution during the Second World War, it is the ideal place to showcase technological achievements.



The exhibition is particularly significant as over the years the ‘face’ of technology has on the whole been male, of course there are a few exceptions (you are probably now thinking of either the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, Carly Fiorina, or the President and CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer). However, look beyond the figureheads and you will see a very different picture. In fact, I would say that the technology PR, marketing and journalist community in the UK is fairly evenly split. In fact here at MCC International it is an exact 50/50. However, traditionally the spokespeople that we typically push to the fore have been men, although this is beginning to change, albeit slowly.

Of course, there are sometimes some amusing incidents, and I recall being at a trade-show and watching from a safe distance a senior spokesperson (a man) from a company that shall of course remain nameless, being put through the technological mill by a reporter (a woman), as he got it very wrong and assumed her level of expertise was based on the height of her heels and the length of her skirt!

Back in the 1980s, I very much doubt I would have got a girlfriend by talking about my Sinclair Spectrum and prowess playing Double Dragon (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!), it was a language that only boys shared, however, times have changed. Technology and more specifically computing has proliferated in to all of our lives. Sitting on the train in the morning you will see just as many women playing Temple Run as men, and all of us want the latest tablet and smartphone for both function and fashion. Yes some of us will be more concerned about colour choices of the new iPhone 5C, whilst others will fixate on the pros and cons of the Snapdragon processor in our Android tablet, but that isn’t a gender specific argument.

It is great that this exhibition is celebrating these often unsung heroes of the tech world, and if you get the chance, do pay a visit to Bletchley Park. There is a huge talent pool in the UK tech sector, both male and female and hopefully we will see the balance redressed higher up the corporate food-chain.
Earlier this year, research from Cranfield University showed women held 17% of the board positions among the companies listed on the FTSE 100, then just a few weeks ago it was suggested to much chagrin that this was due to women’s ineptitude at competitive sports such as chess. If this is the case why is it that the top three highest scorers on my friends list playing Minion Rush are woman, and I can’t get near their rankings for love nor money! 
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