I am pretty sure you have come across the words “gender”, and specifically “gender equality” before. Who has not? It is being splattered all over the place for decades now, it is on social media, on television, in the newspapers and even on political platforms. Every tech company wants to achieve gender equality, working hard to increase its female employee and executive numbers, universities are putting in varying efforts, trying to get more females into its tech and engineering programs. Politicians are seeking to make infrastructure accessible to all genders and eliminate restrictions to quality living caused by society. It’s really kind of nerve wracking, is it not? But all that noise is necessary.
Imagine how far off we would be in technology development – there would be many hands-on-deck working, developing and creating to make the world a better place.
Why gender equality?
Let me quickly tell you why gender equality is important for all of us and not only a particular gender. Imagine a world where each person is allowed to effectively contribute to their country’s productivity regardless of their sex or gender. Imagine how far off we would be in technology development – there would be many hands-on-deck working, developing and creating to make the world a better place. The benefits to the governments are increased numbers of the workforce that generate more wealth as well as an increased standard of life.
Secondly, gender restrictions have a negative effect on the rights of a person. Being told what they are permitted and not permitted to do based on their gender in the long term restricts the person’s full power to live in freedom and live their lives as they please.
Thirdly, gender equality also means a better future for our children: when each member of the parental unit earns and financially contributes to the home, it also means that much more resources can be channeled towards the provision of quality child care, avoiding children being raised in poverty and increasing their chances of a better future.
I would add on one last point – even though the benefits of gender equality are countless, just imagine this: you know a really great very tiny coffee shop in a village in Italy. You have tasted and drank many cups of coffee around the world, but no one ever makes coffee like this shop. They are the best! You tell all your friends all over the world about it but the problem is: not all your friends can afford to travel all the way to Italy, so what do you do? Get the coffee to them or get that shop to them. I would say getting that shop in every corner of the world would make everyone also experience this miraculous tasting coffee.
Over the ages, women have effectively contributed to household management, private businesses, ruled kingdoms etc. They do a pretty good job at it but only when given the chance.
Okay you are probably asking now what coffee has to do with equal rights – let me explain. Over the ages, women have effectively contributed to household management, private businesses, ruled kingdoms etc. They do a pretty good job at it but only when given the chance. Thus my point is the provision of the platform to enable each woman effectively use their skills and qualities in other spheres of industry is, in a sense, going to make everyone taste this great coffee!
Fix the numbers VS fix the knowledge
Okay enough coffee for now. The current most popular focus of achieving gender equality is what is referred to as “Fix the Numbers of Women” and “Fix the Institutions” which focuses on increasing women’s participation and promoting gender equality in careers through structural change in research organizations. There is another aspect which might not be too popular to you which is the “Fix the Knowledge” or “gendered innovations” or the “gender dimension”. This concerns itself with stimulating excellence in science and technology by integrating sex and gender into research. In the vein of tech it means integrating gender and analysis into design and development. It means letting gender and sex analysis drive design, drive development. But why? What is the benefit of the gender dimension in technology design and development? Let me try to explain in just three reasons why it is important that the tech companies also direct their focus to this other aspect of gender equality.
“Fixing the knowledge” means stimulating excellence in science and technology by integrating sex and gender into research. In the vein of tech it means integrating gender and analysis into design and development.
Discovering new potential markets
This sounds exciting for many tech companies unless you do not want to grow your markets, then this is not for you. What gender dimension does is that it involves the questioning of existing gender norms and stereotypes, reconsidering standards and reference models, which leads to a deeper understanding of gendered needs, behaviour and attitudes. Indeed this querying and reconsideration brings to fore new potential areas for development that tend to be ignored based on traditional research ways.
Meeting everyone’s needs
Most tech companies start out with products designed and meant for markets across the world but ignoring the cultural, racial and social structures of these markets. The gender dimension enables a look into societally relevant products, avoiding products designed for a “privileged” market and sold to all. It allows user needs to be met regardless of race, culture and societal structures. This also means tailoring customer needs as to what is exactly required, rather than a one size fits all approach.
You might not have thought about it but there is more to a product use than just its use. People form relationships with their tech products. Its ability to provide a service when needed is great but technology can have more sentimental value to its owner. It is definitely not right when one invests money in purchasing technology that makes them feel racially profiled, or technology that cannot even pronounce their name right or keeps autocorrecting their name to an English word, for example. There is also an example of technology that fails to identify the owner of the technology as human based on their facial structure or skin colour. That is totally wrong and demeaning to one’s human rights. The gender dimension in design takes on these varying differences, acknowledges them, looks for them and avoids them.
The time is now
Finally I would say it is the way to go now: everyone or perhaps most governments and institutions are working to achieve gender equality in these three ways. Now it is not enough to only concentrate on fixing the numbers and the institutions but is important to also fix the knowledge, how it is produced, disseminated and used. For tech, how it is used in design and development. The gender dimension in tech design and development will allow a critical look at important issues the tech world has ignored till date and even find new potential markets. You can read more about the gender dimension from this website,which provides countless examples of gender dimension in various fields of research.
You can also watch this video below to understand the role of gender and sex in innovation.