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I am woman, watch me hack

Stashed in: Women, Hackers!, Dilbert, inequality, education, economics, Girls Who Code

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One of the biggest challenges, according to many in the industry, may be a public-image problem. Most young people, like Allen, simply don’t come into contact with computer scientists and engineers in their daily lives, and they don’t really understand what they do. And to the extent that Americans do, “they think of Dilbert,” explains Jeffrey Wilcox, vice president of engineering at Lockheed Martin. (“Dilbert” being shorthand, of course, for boring, antisocial, cubicle-contained drudgery, conducted mostly by awkward men in short-sleeve dress shirts — a bit like “Office Space,” only worse.) “I think it’s just about telling our story better,” Wilcox said. “We as engineers, and I’m guilty of this, we’re not great storytellers.”

Public narratives about a career make a difference. The most common career aspiration named on Girls Who Code applications is forensic science. Like Allen, few if any of the girls have ever met anyone in that field, but they’ve all watched “CSI,” “Bones” or some other show in which a cool chick with great hair in a lab coat gets to use her scientific know-how to solve a crime. This so-called “CSI” effect has been credited for helping turn forensic science from a primarily male occupation into a primarily female one.

What's wrong with Dilbert? What's wrong with Office Space? I love those!

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