It is no secret that the publishing industry is behind in technology. Often mentioned is the lack of funds to take on uncertain ventures. However, sexism within tech industries, as well as in technology itself, is a considerable factor in alienating publishing professionals, most of which are women. Tech industries need improvements, but the publishing industry must also take steps to protect itself from the influence of sexism in tech while incorporating new technologies into its publishing initiatives. Steps include providing welcoming environments in and outside the workplace, mentoring other women, making our voices heard, foregoing the traditional, acknowledging successful women in digital publishing, introducing young girls to technology, and boycotting sexist publications.
Women in Tech
Technologies need to be designed for inclusion of women. There is a clear lack of women in tech industries, which in turn affects the technologies that are developed.1 According to Audrey Watters in “Men Explain Technology to Me,” because tech industries are dominated by men, technologies are generally designed for men.2 For example,
Danah Boyd danah boyd, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and research assistant professor in media, culture, and communication at New York University, suggests that the Oculus Rift is sexist in its design because of the different ways it affects women and men.3 Furthermore, Watters, whose main concern is education technology, wonders, “How do [male] privileges, ideologies, expectations, values get hard-coded into ed-tech?”4 The same question can be applied to publishing technologies.
Women and Publishing Technologies
The publishing industry, on the other hand, is made up of mostly women.5 It is clear that if the industry needs incentive to adopt new technologies, publishing professionals need to feel that those technologies are inclusive of their demographic.
The following are steps that should be taken by women and men in the publishing industry to ensure that digital publishing is inclusive of women.
- Provide welcoming learning environments. Independent feminist-activist spaces such as Geek Feminism and Double union work within communities to bring an interest in tech to women outside of corporate environments.6 Another example is Ladies Learning Code in Toronto, which supports and encourages women to learn programming.
- Create new, non-traditional platforms. We can change the industry by foregoing the traditional, male-dominated hurdles altogether and creating our own publishing initiatives. For example, Model View Culture is “an independent media platform covering technology, culture, and diversity” that was started by women who saw a need for a publishing platform that speaks to women and minorities in tech who feel excluded by the industry.7
- Be loud. Part of the problem is that women are not as loud as their male counterparts.8 According to Hope Leman, who works with databases in the healthcare industry, women in digital publishing can have their voices heard by speaking at conferences and networking with other women in publishing, either in person or via social media.9 Meeting and speaking with as many people as possible will “normalize the idea” of women working in tech-related fields.10
- Mentor other women. Women working in digital publishing can make an effort to mentor women in their workplaces.11 We can also volunteer to mentor women in our lives who are interested in tech.12
- Don’t purchase sexist publications. As consumers, we can choose not to purchase digital publications that promote sexism. One such publication is Bustle, a news site for women that is mostly run by men, that puts “world news and politics alongside beauty tips.”13 The suggestion that women can only handle serious topics when accompanied by beauty tips is demeaning.
- Introduce children to technology early. Breaking into tech fields is a much bigger challenge for girls than for boys, so they benefit from an extra push. Children can be introduced to technology in preschool, in an attempt to eliminate the stereotype that boys are better than girls in natural aptitude. Elise Boulard, who works as an ebook distribution sales manager, says the gender imbalance in tech fields starts in childhood, when children are told that “girls are good at arts and boys at math.”14 One way to fight this problem, suggests Leman, is by supporting initiatives such as Josie Robin, Science Fiend, “a STEM inspired ebook for kids.”15 Meghan MacDonald, digital project manager at Penguin Random House Canada, agrees: she says a huge hurdle for girls is getting past the discouragement of people around them and feeling that they don’t belong in technology-related fields because of their gender.16 Furthermore, in an interview of successful women in digital publishing, everyone agreed that programming should be taught in schools to help break the illusion that girls and women cannot code.17
- Acknowledge women already doing the work. In the publishing industry, we should acknowledge the work of women who bring tech to publishing, such as Brenda Walker, CEO and founder of EndTap.18 Liza Daly, vice president of engineering at Safari Books Online, says that we should emphasize the work of women working in digital publishing to show role models and success stories to girls and women interested in technology.19
- Work with HR. Because tech roles tend to be dominated by men, even in the publishing industry,20 companies can make sure their HR department takes diversity seriously. According to Shanley Kane, founder of Model View Culture, HR departments are often ignorant of the issues faced by minorities in tech and need to be educated in creating environments and recruitment practices that are welcoming to all.21
- Donate. Donating to organizations like Girl Develop It helps women learn to work with technologies at an affordable price.22 23
These are just a few examples of the ways women can support each other, and be supported, in digital publishing. Since there is a need for systemic changes within tech and digital publishing, the most important thing to take away is that we need to rethink the ways technologies are built and introduced within our communities. When women working in publishing feel accepted and encouraged to explore the world of tech, the publishing industry will be much more likely to adopt new technologies.
6 Mary, “Model View Culture: Where Tech Intersects with Social and Cultural Lenses,” Geek Feminism Blog, March 20, 2014, http://geekfeminism.org/2014/03/20/model-view-culture-where-tech-intersects-with-social-and-cultural-lenses/.
7 Elizabeth Spiers, “‘Speaking up Every. F*cking. Time’: How One Feminist Publisher Is Taking on the Worst of Silicon Valley (and Some of Her Allies, Too),” Medium: Matter, July 9, 2014, https://medium.com/matter/speaking-up-every-fucking-time-a61a24aa7629.
8 Laura Brady and Christen Thomas, “There’s No Ceiling If You Start at the Top! Women in Digital Publishing and TechDigital Book World,” Digital Book World, September 30, 2013, http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/theres-no-ceiling-if-you-start-at-the-top-women-in-digital-publishing-and-tech/.