Mothership HackerMoms is a women’s makerspace in Berkeley, California, just across the Bay from San Francisco. Its aim is to provide a community and co-working space for women with childcare responsibilities who otherwise would find it hard to have time to work on their own projects and may end up staying at home and becoming isolated. It opened in 2012, making it the first women’s makerspace in the world.
Double Union is a feminist hackerspace in San Francisco, located on an industrial estate in the Potrero Hill neighbourhood next door to the building that used to house the offices of the Mythbusters TV show! DU was originally inspired by another feminist hackerspace, Seattle Attic, which aimed to be a welcoming place for women to work on hacking and making projects.
When I tell people about my PhD—that I research ways to make technology more engaging for women—I usually brace myself for a reply like this: “Why would you bother to do that? Everyone knows men are just better with technology. It’s science!”. It happens more often than you would think, and more often than I’d like. And then I get into a whole conversation about why this isn’t true. So I thought I’d lay out the arguments against biological determinism—the idea that ‘male’ and ‘female’ bodies are in some way built to have different competencies in doing maths, designing bridges or operating computers—so I can point people here instead. And then there turned out to be a lot of arguments to cover and this turned into a pretty long read.
A key problem created by gender imbalances in the tech and engineering industries is that it means fewer women than men have access to the means of designing and producing technological artefacts. If most programmers and engineers are men, then most software and hardware is going to be designed by men.
I hate gender-specific job titles with the power of a thousand suns. As well as perpetuating the idea that there are only two genders that everyone has to fit themselves into, it seems so derogatory to shove an ‘-ess’ on the end of a regular job title just because somebody who identifies as a woman is doing it.