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Girl Skills,who needs them?

I realised tonight that part of my wearable computing challenge is going to involve some sewing.

This could cause a few problems,if you know me in real life you’ll probably know i’m not at all a ‘girly girl’ so have mostly avoided picking what are considered to be traditional women skills. I can sew a button on and have made a few small craft projects badly. This Duck an ‘Evil Tux’ bag at a womens technology craft day and a ipod case(Very badly).

The wearable computing challenge is going to involve some sewing.  There are some ideas in my head which might mean that I may need to do quite a lot. Hopefully the sewing won’t be too complicated but I want to do it as well as possible, I’m starting to regret not learning more sewing and craft skills when I was younger. Might have been more interested if I had known it would come in useful for things like this.

Anyway a few weeks ago someone in my twitter feed posted a link to a Huffington Post article all about encouraging girls into STEM careers using their interest in fashion to spark an interest in wearable technology.  I retweeted the link and thought thats great. It was only a week or so later when I went to the London Geek Girl Dinner and listened to a talk by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino Her opinion is pretty much the polar opposite. That by using wearable technology as the link into tech careers limits girls to only look at careers that rely on the traditional ‘womens’ skills which is limiting rather than empowering.

This made me think quite a lot about both sides of the argument.  On one hand surely any initiative that gets girls interested in tech. is a good thing right? On the other hand if women are encouraged only into one particular field of tech. there is danger of turning that field into a ghetto  and it ending up being known as a woman’s job.

The paragraph that worried me in the in that Huff. post article was

“We wanted to shatter the myths that technology is a boring ‘boys’ club’. Girls see fashion as a creative fun industry. Conversely, they see the tech industry as a dull place to work for ‘pizza guzzling nerds’. By fusing fashion with technology we were out to demonstrate just how creative technology can be and empower the girls to believe in the endless possibilities of working in tech.”

That is a quote but its not really clear who by. It worried me because it implies that they are aiming to get girls to use technology while pursuing a career in the fashion industry rather than changing stereotypes about what working in technology is actually like.

There are jobs in tech that can be seen to be dull by others and there are pizza guzzling nerds working those jobs. There are areas of tech that I find dull (printers,windows servers,back up and storage) but I’m sure there are both men and women who are fascinated by them,just not me.

What should be shouted about is that there is so much technology around now that anyone who understands it,knows how it works and knows how to get it to do things will have a much better chance of being successful in their chosen career.

A better way to approach the problem is to demonstrate the technology and the many ways it can be used to do cool, interesting and useful things. So that might be wearable technology,or social and games or other useful gadgets and gizmos .

Everybody is different so there is no one size fits all solution. Working in technology isn’t for everybody but it would be a shame for those girls who could flourish in a tech job to miss out simply because they never found that ‘in’

The other thing to remember is that sewing isn’t just for girls