There's a curious trend from the last few decades of television.
As Megan Smith, the United States chief technology officer, pointed out during a panel at the SxSW conference last month, there are very few women characters on TV who play the obligatory "geek" who knows how to program or hack a computer. She said only one out of 15 of those character types are portrayed on TV by women.
That caught my attention, partly because it rings true--e.g., it's easy to picture the guy with the horn-rimmed glasses and the nerd-shirt who knows how to hack into anything--and partly because it is a sad fact that women have not had the same opportunities as men in tech. I've made the mistake myself in a recent article where I profiled tech leaders who were all men. I've interviewed countless men in tech positions over the years and not as many women. I've had my own biases about male entrepreneurs who start tech companies.
Yet, I've been married for 27 years. I have three daughters. I would be lost without a female perspective guiding my thoughts and actions. I wouldn't know as much about empathy or social engagement. I wouldn't know as much in general. Unfortunately, without a more proportionate number of women in leadership roles or attending tech schools or developing apps to help us in business, technology is too one-sided. It isn't as useful. It's limited.
Smith made it pretty clear during her panel: The reason we need more women in tech is because tech will get better. The laptops we use, the infrastructure that's all around us, the mobile apps we download to our smartphones--they are missing a voice.
What can be done? The change starts with me, first and foremost. I plan to actively seek out more women in tech roles to profile. Right now, I'm working on a story about the fitness app Vint developed by a woman named Louise Eriksson. I'm working on a second story about women leaders. I want to be part of the solution.
Second, it helps if we can all rally behind this cause. Encourage the younger women you know to look into the tech sector and consider becoming part of this growing field. I'll do the same. It's an incredibly lucrative and rewarding field.
Third, I plan to look into the issue more. I have a voice and I can point out inconsistencies both in my own writing and in the tech sector. Where is the bias? Which companies have become good old boy clubs? Why are there so many apps that seem to be created by those male characters on TV shows with the pencil-holders and the thick glasses?
In the end, tech will improve once we address the issue. Post in comments if you have an opinion about how to solve the problem and have any other insights.