After the fallout from Dell’s misogynistic gaffe at a recent conference, you would think people would have figured out that alienating women in technology is a Bad Idea. But you would be so very wrong.
First we have Microsoft’s decision to join Dell in the 19th Century. A presentation in Norway on Windows Azure included the “Azure Girls” in a fabulous dance number while music blares: “I’ve got the skills to impress / I’m a computer genius / The words ‘Micro’ and ‘Soft’ don’t apply to my penis.”
Seriously, boys? I first heard that joke in third grade, and that’s where it should have stayed.
(The lyrics on the screen flashed “or vagina” as the lyrics were sung, which neither makes sense nor mitigates the offense – although it’s a good thing the conference took place in Norway because THAT sort of language would NEVER be allowed in places like Michigan.)
Is this how Microsoft wishes to advertise itself? Well then, as a woman in technology, I have some constructive criticism for them. Let’s consider the uproar over forcing people into Windows 8’s annoying Metro interface. Let’s consider the lackadaisical response to the Surface tablet announcement. Let’s discuss the Microsoft malaise that has entered the general consciousness.
Instead of coming up with penis jokes, I suggest they focus on business.
If that’s not enough misogynistic mayhem for you, there’s the EU’s ad campaign for teenage girls: “Science It’s A Girl Thing!” Because all girls like lipstick, so the way to get them to like science is to add more lipstick. And I always wear my stilettos when I’m in the server room.
Why is it that anything marketed toward females has to be cute, pink, fuzzy, and dumbed down? This ad campaign only reinforces the notion that to succeed a girl must have a supermodel figure, wear the latest fashions, and hide her intelligence.
To deliver a response, I would like to get together a diplomatic team consisting of Dr. Samantha Carter, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Dr. Moira MacTaggart, and Dr. Liz Shaw (the original, thank you). No short skirts here, but a hell of a lot more brain cells than the people who came up with these ideas.
Why do these incidents continue? Because the women who manage to pursue careers in science and technology are not permitted to sit at the table when decisions are made. I’ll bet there were few females present, if any, when Dell decided on an offensive emcee for their Copenhagen conference, when Microsoft developed the idea of “Azure Girls”, when the EU wrote the campaign for “Science It’s A Girl Thing”.
And that’s the crux of the problem. You can’t get women involved unless you get women involved.
Until women are accepted as equals in fields like technology and science, until they have a say in what happens in the boardroom, the glass ceiling will remain firmly affixed and girls of the future will be expected to find the right shade of lipstick to go with their Bunsen burners.