The idea of someone taking to the internet to escape the realities of everyday life has been around since the beginning of the Web. In the introduction to her 1997 novel, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, Sherry Turkle describes Internet users playing text-based games in which users can create characters that can be anyone (or anything) they desire. Many people might think of a “To Catch A Predator” scenario, but Turkle describes it as a way for people to lives out their dreams and fantasies in this virtual world. She even talks about an eleven-year-old girl who invites her online friends to her virtual condo, where “she chats, orders orders a virtual pizza, and flirts.”
These days, users do the same thing (albeit in a much more visually advanced way) with games like World of Warcraft and Second Life. These games have millions of everyday users, and are well-known to almost everyone in our culture, not just geeks or techies. You know you’re an integral part of American culture when South Park parodies you:
I find it funny that tech culture and community, and technology itself, evolves so rapidly, that we take for granted what we can do now with technology verses what we could do 5 (or 10) years ago. Yet, even though we have high expectations, we still have trouble adapting to such rapid technological evolution. Janet Murray describes the predicament perfectly in her book, “Inventing the Medium”:
“…the pace of change has been so rapid that technical innovation is outstripping design. We are making too many new things too quickly, with the result that as users of the devices we often feel overwhelmed and unable to take appropriate advantage of the opportunities they offer us… This wealth of possibilities raises our expectations, but the functions are so mysteriously offered or so compromised by unintended secondary consequences that we can find ourselves spending hours in frustrating trial and error in order to accomplish simple tasks…”
But, with technology and the Internet being ingrained into our everyday lives, you would think that there would be more balance when it came to gender roles in the industry. Since it is not just “nerdy,” white males using these technologies, there should be more women taking the reigns in the tech fields. Many women in the tech industry are calling for more female leaders, and less gender-bias and female exploitation. In Cindy Royal’s “Open letter to Wired magazine” blog post, she describes her disdain for her once-beloved tech magazine becoming reliant on overtly-sexual covers, and for having a huge lack of coverage for strong females in technology.
This imbalance of women in the tech industry in prevalent in higher education, as well.
A 2012 article for Computer World states that computer science enrollment in colleges is up 10% from last year (or 20% from two years ago), yet the percentage of women who earned bachelor’s degrees in computer science has dropped over 2% in the last year. When it comes to master’s degrees, over 75% of degrees awarded were to males, and 56.7% were to non-resident aliens (which shows a general lack of American students seeking CS degrees, as well).
But all in not lost. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg offers up some advice on women looking to climb to the top of the tech field in her “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders” video. In a New Yorker article written about Sandberg, she is described as a huge reason why Facebook became profitable.
“By 2010, a company that was bleeding cash when Sandberg arrived had become profitable. Within three years, Facebook grew from a hundred and thirty employees to twenty-five hundred, and from seventy million worldwide users to nearly seven hundred million.”
With the recent news of Yahoo! appointing former Google higher-up Marissa Mayer as their new CEO, though a small step, this may lead to more tech companies looking for female leadership.