Bodies or Taxes: Ideas on Gender and Technology

I am beginning to think that part of my calling is at the intersection of technology and social justice. I just had a really long conversation with a man of color who is a cybersecurity expert and it became clear to me that there is a difference between #ConservativeBlackpeopleiwithaGoodGovermentJob who care about social justice and those who don’t. The guy was nice and I learned a lot from him in our conversation about the history of the internet, but it became very clear that he was a boot-strapper, and that I felt that all of our boats would rise or fall together.

Now, in a  conversation with a White man who was also a developer, about a month ago,  we concluded that we are in the midst of a huge paradigm shift where we can either pay with bodies or taxes, made a huge impression on me. Because it showed me that there is immense thinking power that occurs when a person sits at the intersection of being a futurist, of understanding technology and has a sense of social justice.

I think it is very interesting when people bristle at the idea of bringing a gender lens to the underrepresentation of Women in STEM. How can we not when STEM careers are the careers positioned to grow in the next thirty years. When women are disproportional clustered in low wage service sector jobs, low wage care work jobs, I think that is important that we start asking where is the money, who has it and why?

I know that it can be difficult to casually talk with me, because in terms of gender I can see a persons assumptions 50 miles out, a good teacher and writer has to.

Why people be bristling?

Is it because the absence of women in STEM points to fundamental racial and gender inequalities?

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  1. says

    This may not be completely on point. But, I have something to say about the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields.

    I went to Georgia Tech, one of the premier engineering institutions in the country. My fiance studied computer engineering; I studied History, Technology & Society (an interdisciplinary BS program combining history and sociology with the same science & math core as the science/engineering majors).

    Having the unique experience of being surrounded by STEM majors–one of my best girlfriends is now an electrical engineer–I can say that the lack of women has a a lot to do with the STEM field’s general condescension of liberal arts fields. The truth is that moving forward, they will all be interconnected. The question you present is not only about STEM but access to it technology (sociological factors) and access to jobs (economic factors). None of these things can be separated from the others, and until the academic establishment stops pooh-poohing liberal arts as fluff, the gender gap in that field will continue.

    Why? Because broadly speaking, men tend to be more concerned with science/tech for their own sake–how do we make it stronger, better, faster? Whereas women want to know how we can use technology. Hence the “pink collar” tech entrepreneurs like mommy bloggers, fashion bloggers, etc. Some of my former classmates have a startup focused on cataloging written & video experiences of natural hair transitions by hair type.

    Still, technology is becoming such a part of our everyday lives that I hope some of this will self correct. Liberal arts pursuits always came easily to me but I was never actually bad at math or science, I just had to work harder at them. I was turned off to STEM because it seemed like I would be working with machines, not helping people. And that’s where I think many other women get stuck too.

  2. Renina says


    You see me gina and I see you!

    So. In the same ways that we will have to reimagine how we view work, we will also have to reimagine how we view education.

    My students were shocked when I told them that the school in the US is on a 9 month calendar because public school in this country is premised on socializing immigrant workers for factory work. The factories are in China, Mexico and Bangledesh now. So……………………

    People who sit at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts are dangerous because of their ability to look and see the core assumptions of say…the Internet and English literature.

    I am getting ready to start clocking the numbers on Women in STEM in general and Black women in computer science in particular and so it will be interesting to see where we are represented, where are clustered and where we are underrepresented.

    I think your statement about helping machines vs helping people is an interesting one. @afrolicious and I have been having an ongoing conversation over the last three weeks about rethinking our relationship to technology and to each other in the age the singularity. Here I am pulling on Grace Boggs and her ideas around becoming more human human beings. So yes.

    I find your comment about helping the machine and helping people interesting.

  3. says

    Yes! My career interests center around policy, advocacy & justice work because I hate the idea of “pushing product”. It just seems to me that technology usually ends up working against the already disenfranchised. Public schools are increasing technology in the classroom but what of those who can’t afford? There was an article in the NYT I believe which discusses a young man who had to use his cellphone to research & write a term paper because he couldn’t afford a laptop. Essentially, I often feel like the positive effects of technology never trickle down to where it’s actually needed.

  4. arieswym says

    OMG brownbelle’s first comment is everything. I want to hug you thru the computer.

    And I agree that STEM + liberal arts is the future.