Why does a man has the ability to identify a sports car model a mile away but can not find the ketchup in the refrigerator?
I thought about these and other questions as I was contemplating Roy Tennant's August 15th, 2006 piece in Library Journal which focuses on the Gender Gap in digital library development.
I had to read the piece a couple time since I was unsure if the point of the article. Was is about environmental factors were preventing women from becoming involved in digital library projects? Or, was it was questioning why women were not out there leading the way at conferences, etc.?
I feel any perceived shortage of women in digital libraries has little to do with libraries, their culture, and work environments for female colleagues. Instead, it may have to do with our educational system and gender specific learning styles.
When I do an environmental scan I see many examples of women involved with library technology / digital libraries:
- In a survey of current practice and staffing patterns in academic and research libraries , Choi and Rasmussen looked at current practitioners that were in charge of digitization projects or digital library projects during the period from September to December 2005. Their research indicated there were slightly more women (27, 56%) than men (21, 44%) among the respondents. Of the 48 respondents, 37 (77%) had a master's or doctoral degree in Library and Information Science, and 7 (15%) had an academic background in computer science, engineering, or information technology management. One-third of respondents were aged in their 30s.
- Six very technically competent women (based on their blogs) are taking the lead in a Five Weeks to a Social Library online course being developed for online presentation in 2007.
- At the Digital Libraries a la Carte conference, 25 of 40 participants of the Web 2.0 module were female as were 33 of the 56 participants in the Technological developments module.
The interest that boys have with technology starts with the games and toys they play with. Today's video games are simply yesterday's erector sets or Lincoln Logs. By the time males reach the undergraduate level they are comfortable with technology environment and culture. Young girls have not had the same exposure to the technology and feel less confident at the same point in life.
Males tending to have an explorer-type mentality, finding interest in just playing around with the computer to find out the capabilities. Women tend to prefer working towards a goal or end.
This difference in approach could also help explain why don't men ask for directions.
Introductory computing courses typically assign programming projects that may lack purpose or meaning to female students. Considering that females may begin technology programs with less exposure than males, their learning strategies may be less effective for skills like programming. Courses which encourage learning through repetitive exercise and projects without a direct application may discourage females from continuing with the major.
In the end, the problem may be the lack of a technology learning model that fits with the needs of women. Sphere: Related Content