How Female-Empowerment Media is Failing Women in Tech
By Lindsey @The Engineeress
The impact of Mass Media on formative values systems is indisputable. All are prone to this, but there is widespread awareness that young girls and women are mainly affected by the media- especially the celebrities and models they observe on television, social media and in magazines. The world of technology is no exception to this phenomenon - we emulate what we see.
Enter Refinery29, a media outlet which prides itself on empowering women. While browsing the site, I stumbled into the Tech section to discover the big cover story: “How to Stream the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”. Allow me to cut to the chase - the tech expertise required to stream the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (VSFS) is equivalent to the expertise of locating the article written about how to stream the fashion show. Any reader, let alone the women this was targeted for, could have very literally Googled “stream Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” and been streaming within seconds. It is not rocket science.
There is a place for the VSFS in R29. It is called the Entertainment section. By placing this article in Tech, Refinery29 is projecting the message “the level of technology women should care to understand how to stream events”. Witnessing this cover story reminded me of the obstacles I have confronted as a female engineer. It reminded me of how I felt when my job building a rocket in middle school was to decorate it. This message is the embodiment of what I actively fight against my social media presence, and it is a harsh reminder of how much progress is still needed.
Further, I’d like to dive into the articles which followed starting with, “How You Can Create a Close Friend List on Instagram”, which again, is clearly tech-related, but remarkably low-level for a Millennial reader. Next, “A Gift for Every Tech Lover on your List (And a Few for You)”, in which the title itself suggests “hey reader, you’re not a tech-lover, but here’s how you can buy a gift for one”. This latter point is overly emphasized with the in-bracket words (And a Few For You), which implies the reader themselves would not enjoy a tech-related gift. Lastly, we observe in the article “Starbucks Plans to Crack Down on Customers Watching Porn in Stores”, in which there appears to be a vague relationship with tech, yet again fails to describe in detail how technology is used for this purpose.
I’ve focused on technology throughout my years as a researcher in graduate school, and continue to do so today through my work as a process engineer for one of America’s largest technology corporations. On Instagram, I go by the pseudonym, The Engineeress, endeavoring to peel back the curtain of women in engineering. Through my posts, I strive to serve as a role model that young women can relate to. I hope that one day, there will no longer be a need for accounts dedicated to rejecting societal norms that convince women they have no place in tech.
I challenge the media to publish articles about actual technology directed at the female audience. There are fascinating technology topics that are appealing to all-female non-tech audiences, i.e. wearables, fiber-science for the fashion world, how hacks keep occurring in our databases (and how we can protect ourselves), why batteries fade over time, why Galaxy phones were exploding, genome editing, new cures for cancer, recyclability of materials, and so much more. Despite the endless resources of fascinating technology, the recurring theme directed towards women is that our place in tech is on the sidelines. Is this the message Refinery29 desires to broadcast to its audience of empowered women?
A bit more about the Author:
Lindsey is a materials engineer in the semiconductor industry. She hopes to present a new face for women in engineering through her dedicated Instagram (Instagram.com/the_engineeress) in effort to help young women see themselves in STEM careers.