Somewhere in the world right now a young girl sits at a computer, learning to program in Java or Python or the latest flavor of web scripting. Her teacher is proud of his contribution to the advancement of STEM. Her parents are probably very happy about her career prospects (and future salary potential).
But more importantly, what is she thinking?
So much has been made of the gender gap lately, about Women in Tech and Girls Coding and a few dozen other organizations promoting female participation in technical fields. This is good. If opportunities in technology have been denied to women out of ignorance and bias, we shouldn’t allow that.
But I have to wonder, have we crossed a line somewhere along the way? Is this about giving women equal opportunities, or have we turned it into evening the gender spread at any cost?
As someone who has been in IT for almost twenty years, I know the benefits of having technical skills. As a father, I don’t want to see my daughters’ options artificially limited by some narrow-minded bigot, but at the same time I don’t want them to feel pressured into a career field they wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. They are precious to me, but they are also wicked smart. I believe they could pursue almost any career field and be successful in it, and there are a few that I would prefer. But at the end of the day, it can’t be my choice; it must be theirs.
If a girl gets exposure to coding or engineering or something similar and it lights a fire in her, that’s a good thing. But if she starts down this path merely to please her parents, teachers, or society in general then we are undermining the very principle we claim to be advancing.
And that’s as bad as the song I reference in the title.