“Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies”. Gore Vidal's words crossed my mind last week when a book landed upon my desk. Little Miss Geek: Bridging the Gap Between Girls and Technology is partly a lament about the paucity of women in the technology industry but also a manifesto for girls, companies, colleges and schools, a road map to changing the fact that only 17 per cent of the work force in technology is female. It's witty, fascinating, and written by an acquaintance of mine, ad woman Belinda Parmar.
The reason why I died a little bit inside? I briefly blogged for her on her Lady Geek website and remember her talking about her wish to write this book. My full-time job got in the way of the part-time crusade to open up the world of technology to women, which is why I'm thrilled that Belinda kept her eyes on the prize – as well as being the author of Little Miss Geek, her agency consults with companies about how they advertise to women (she hates the “pink it and shrink it” approach as much as I do) and she is moving into technology recruitment – but obviously incredibly jealous.
Still, even though I didn't have the vision that Belinda had four years ago, I'm catching up now. Her book charts the early years of Little Miss Geek, a girl who, as the introduction to the book explains “takes her first blinking look at the gadget-filled world she's been brought into... she has the power to do anything.
Unfortunately, statistics say that, right now, it probably won't have anything to do with technology. Thanks to the preconceptions of parents, teachers, employers and girls themselves, technology isn't often an appealing prospect for girls. This matters because, as Belinda puts it, less than one in five jobs in technology are held by women. “In any industry that would be disappointing. In the industry that's shaping the future of mankind, it's downright criminal”.
One of my favourite parts of the book is a drawing done by a schoolgirl of what an IT worker looks like – a bearded bloke in geeky glasses.
Although, obviously, not every young girl thinks IT is just for guys, the picture is funny because it's true. And while my 10-year-old step-daughter is planning to be a graphic designer “working on a really cool Mac”, her second career choice (“looking after kittens”) isn't quite so tech-friendly. Employers, school teachers and parents: read this book. Meanwhile, I'll be the one kicking myself in the corner.
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