Women and Technology
All my life I have been surrounded with people who are interested in science and technology. My father went to college to be a nuclear engineer. My uncle is an electrical engineer. My cousin is studying to be an electrical engineer. And my boyfriend is majoring in computer engineering. Interestingly, all these engineers are male. Some might think that I would stereotype engineering to be male-dominated and perhaps shy away from working with technology because I am female. This is not the case. Instead, I find that it challenges me to educate myself so that I can be on the same level. When I was younger, it angered me that people expected that I was not interested in computers or science. I found it thrilling to break the stereotype. In kindergarten, I liked playing with the blocks and legos. In junior high, I wanted to have the best science fair project and go to the state fair. In high school, I made my own website by teaching myself basic html.
It was my father that passed down his interest in technology to me. The nature of my father's work exposed him to new technologies and made him appreciate them earlier then the rest of the general population. By 1989, my dad had a personal computer at his office desk. When I was a young kid, my dad would frequently take me to his office and he allowed me to experiment on the computer by playing on it whenever I was there. At that point, I thought that typing, cutting, and pasting was pretty neat, but it was the Draw program that I liked more than anything. Because of these opportunities to play around with a computer, I was probably familiar with a computer long before most of my classmates.
Since I had an interest in computers my parents enrolled me in summer classes at Talcott Mountain Science Center in Connecticut. This school believed in a hands-on environment and had a well-equipped computer lab to offer computer courses. My first year was the summer after third grade (1989) and I took a course in computer animation. While it was more that I was interested in animation than the computer part, it gave me exposure to computers.
My family bought a PC in 1990. I was the one to teach my parents how to use the mouse, thanks to the summer course, because neither one had used one before. Since we had a computer at home I was typing up my reports for school while my classmates were still handwriting their papers. I continued taking classes at the Science Center where many of the classes were computer based but I also learned about video technology. One of the last classes I took was "HyperCard," it was in this class that I made a computer game called "The Island o\ f the Dolphins." My dad still has the disk which it is saved on.
Technology also took the form of nuclear power in my house. Growing up I was always told the benefits of nuclear power and taught that it is a safe way to make energy. My father would not let me eat \223Ben and Jerry\222s\224 ice cream or support Green Peace because they were anti-nuke. My dad would always wear his \223Nuclear Energy is Safer than Sex\224 t-shirt, but now it is too worn out. Of course, my family participated in Family Day at the nuclear reactor where we have a picture of my mom, dad, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, and me standing in front of it.
As any parent, my father wanted me to have the best opportunities when I was older. He would always take an active role in my education. He read books about how girls were shortchanged in school, especially in science classes. As an engineer, he was aware of the gender imbalance in his field. He always talked about the importance of science and math to the real world and thought that I need a good foundation in these subjects to be successful later in life.
Having grown up with a math and science mindset, I thought that it was very important that I take the advanced science and math classes. I took it as a personal challenge to excel in the male-dominated fields. I was attracted to the harder science classes just because there were less girls taking them. Do not get me wrong, I was genuinely interested in computers and took AP Computer Science, but I also pride myself on the fact that I was the only girl in that class. Many times I was asked by teachers why more girls were not interested in taking that class. I was not a hundred percent sure what to answer because I did not understand why other girls did not see how computer technology was important in this growing technological world. At one point, I was in a YouthTech Corp where I was able to play with one of the first type of digital cameras. But, as I was involved with other activities, there was less time to participate and I soon lost touch with the group. When I took computer classes I was aware that I knew much less about computers than most of my male classmates. Sometimes I would have to endure some polite teasing as I tried to make up the difference. However, I knew that shying away from taking these classes was never going to help me learn about computers. Though I did not have the most confidence as my male friends with computers, to this day, some of those old male friends make comments that they thought that I was the most tech-savvy girl in high school.
I still have an interest in computers and the technological advances with them, but my interests lie more in the natural sciences. But, I am still interested in what are the causes for the gender difference in technological fields and how to address this difference. I like to question what was my own true motivation to get involved with computers. Was it my father\222s influence or my own inclination? I always want to expand my knowledge of computers but find less and less time to dedicate to strictly to exploring my computer. Because of other interests, I find it difficult to fit a computer class in my schedule. So, I learn a little when I need to do something for another class or pick up infor in what are the causes for the gender difference in technological fields and how to address this difference. I like to question what was my own true motivation to get involved with computers. Was it my father\222s influence or my own inclination? I always want to expand my knowledge of computers but find less and less time to dedicate to strictly to exploring my computer. Because of other interests, I find it difficult to fit a computer class in my schedule. So, I learn a little when I need to do something for another class or pick up information by watching my boyfriend do something on the computer. Whereas when I was younger I learned by exploring on my own; now, I rely on a friend to teach me.
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