Ada Lovelace is acknowledged to be the first computer programmer, she has been refered to as ” the prophet of the computer age” as she was the first to envisage that computers could have more than just mathematical applications. 161 years after her death publications are still printing articles with headlines such as “Can Women Finally Make it big in Tech” and “Women Who Run Tech Startups Are Catching Up”, which are just 2 from this week.
The implication is always that women have still to make it, that they are not there yet , that they need help and special measures. I for one am sick to death of this narrative. I meet women who are high achievers in all kinds of fields all the time. Most of these women are smart enough to just be getting on with their work and ignore the stream of articles that imply that they don’t exist. They no more consider their successes as a breakthrough for all women, than men consider their jobs as achievements for all mankind. (Tony Blair excepted)
The fact is, this narrative that positions women as low achieving victims is one of the most virulent forms of sexism that exists ( a narrative perpetuated by both men and women). Every time a women achieves something there is a journalist ready to paper over the achievement with a mention of how she has succeeded in a man’s arena. Lots of young women are also happy to get press with the byline that “wow I’m young female and in tech look at me” and I certainly don’t blame them for that. It just seems like a retrograde step – they are simultaneously dismissing the legacy of women coders before them and, I fear, adding to the delusion that it is rare for women to be technical.
The only real reason I can see that there are fewer women in high level positions in the workforce is that many smart women also choose to raise families. These women prefer to spend some of their adult life raising kids, without outsourcing that work to others. It is impossible to do both effectively with out a back up support of family and that is increasingly rare. If we lived in a society that respected the work that is parenting more highly then millions of women would be seen as high achievers being heads of households working unfeasibly long hours developing and influencing the future generations.
Perhaps if parenting were referred to regularly in the press as Hardwire Coding of Infant Minds for Effective Humanity then things would be different.