February 21, 2008

The NY Times on Girl Geeks: They are Fashion, Not Technology

NYTimes Stephanie Rosenblum has an article
in today's *Fashion* section on Girls in Tech. Wo. Not in the *Technology* section. In Fashion.

Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain
talks about how girls are coding up more content online: webpages, web art, blogs and podcasts.

And then they decorate it with an image of a girl at her laptop with a devilish tail. But instead of asking one of the girls they interviewed to make the artwork, they ask Adam Strange to do the art for the article:


So when they interview people like Doc Searls, Loic Le Meur or David Weinberger, all of whom are very smart about tech, those articles are in the tech section or business, but when they talk to girls, who for the record, are far more technical in this article than these three tech experts, girls are put in Fashion. I've never seen coverage with Doc or David or Loic in fashion. Maybe they should be there depending, but they aren't put there by the editors that I know of....

This is not about David or Loic or Doc (all extremely supportive of women in tech, btw), and certainly they don't choose the section the paper puts them in, but rather the way the editors and writers at the NYTimes see them, verses the girl geeks in this article.

My point is that the NYTimes puts men who talk tech and trends or social impact in tech/biz, and women who code web art / pages in fashion.

Can you tell I'm pissed? WTF?

However, the number of women in tech isn't great (Which is why we need more articles in the Tech section about this people!)

The article says that less "...than 15 percent of students who took the AP computer science exam in 2006, and there was a 70 percent decline in the number of incoming undergraduate women choosing to major in computer science from 2000 to 2005, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology."

Posted by Mary Hodder at February 21, 2008 07:41 AM | TrackBack

Yep, and most women in tech don't major in CS. :( Like me, for instance...I am a college dropout. I didn't major in CS because I was intimidated by the math requirements of the major. I didn't think I was very good at math. Of course, now I know that's bunk -- when I had great math teachers, I excelled, and when I had bad ones, I didn't do well. (My final math class grades ranged from a 98% A in Geometry to a D in pre-calc.) I wonder how many women continue to believe that myth through their whole lives? *sigh*


Posted by: ericabiz at February 21, 2008 09:28 AM

yeah Mary, that is BS.

Posted by: heathervescent at February 21, 2008 09:46 AM

Mary and I were discussing this on Facebook this morning. It's absurd that we are being lumped in with Project Runway like articles.

Thanks for bringing up the point about the illustration being done by a guy instead of a woman. The lack of representation of women in comix is another issue close to my heart - as if women don't exist in the comix industry either. Sigh!

Posted by: Allyson at February 21, 2008 10:10 AM

Maybe the article was put there to inspire more women and teenage girls (who might be reading the fashion section) to poke around in technology. I think that's great!

Posted by: mw at February 21, 2008 12:32 PM

totally - that is bogus - I am going to blog this too...ridiculous

Posted by: deb schultz at February 21, 2008 12:53 PM

I see you've changed "Clay Shirky" to "Loic LeMeur." Care to comment on the update?

Posted by: fp at February 21, 2008 01:03 PM

Hi Frank, yes.. when I was updating with a bit more info on why I put the guys I did in the post, I remembered that Loic Le Meur was just on a NYTimes technology and biz blog. Not a fashion blog. A tech/biz blog. So I changed it because I thought he was a better example.

Posted by: mary hodder at February 21, 2008 02:59 PM

I would start this with "As a guy" but lets be honest, it doesn't matter, right? :)

Anyhow, I do think this is BS on the part of the NYT, but surely, it's also up to the women to say "hold on a sec... at least cross-post it to Tech & Fashion"?

Might it also be that they think more women will *see* it in the Fashion section and might go "ooooh, maybe I could do this?" thus getting more women into Tech?

I'm not defending this, but really, look at what the PHPWomen(.org) are achieving, how many women they've "brought to light" since their inception - by educating, supporting and making their presence known, they are doing just a whole world of good for women in technology - it's this sort of action that will change how the NYT views WIT.

- Davey

Posted by: Davey Shafik at February 21, 2008 03:55 PM

Hi Davey,
I don't think it matters whether you are a man or a woman, if you build technology, you should be taken seriously as a technologist and put into the tech section.

If I built a technology, and sold that, say to people who bought maps, and because the were extra well designed (read: pretty) and the article talked about code, and sponsorship and business deals, and then ended up being interviewed by the NYT, put into an article and showed up on the fashion pages, I think it would be weird. Imagine doing that yourself. How would you feel? Would it feel odd? Would you feel like your work was taken seriously, right next to the Project Runway article, and the survey of pomegranate cosmopolitians at a few bars including a recipe for one version of the drink?

It's not that Fashion, style or food aren't important on some level, but if Fashion is really the same as Technology then why is the NYTimes sidebar, for browsing topic areas ordered as follows:

# World
# U.S.

* Politics
* Washington
* Education

# N.Y./Region
# Business
# Technology
# Sports
# Science
# Health
# Opinion
# Arts

* Books
* Movies
* Music
* Television
* Theater

# Style

* Dining & Wine
* Fashion & Style
* Home & Garden
* Weddings/ Celebrations

# Travel

What there is serious news? The stuff at the top. What is more for play, not serious, not as important? The stuff at the bottom.

Technology is #5 and in bold and Fashion is at #11, sub category 2, in light grey.

I think that says it all.

Posted by: mary hodder at February 21, 2008 04:10 PM


Thanks for the link, Mary, totally agree. And blogged it myself here.

That whole denigration that women won't be interested in the "rigorous science" is perhaps the worst part for me. It's not as if most of the code jockeys I know, including my own husband, are into "rigorous science", they're into creating cool things.

Again, gah!

Posted by: Elisa Camahort at February 21, 2008 05:13 PM

Oops, sorry didn't realize your comments didn't take html. My post on referring to your is here:

Posted by: Elisa Camahort at February 21, 2008 05:19 PM

I wonder if the author, who happens to be female, decided where to place the article.

Posted by: anon at February 21, 2008 05:29 PM

Hi Mary,
I hope you don't mind if I cross post this comment from my own blog:

Two quibbles and I will let go of this with the agreement that the struggles against sexism for parity in the workplace, in particular for technology training and opportunities are not over.

1. The sidebar in the NYT appears in the order you listed, but it scans better there than it does in my comments lay-out� the page composition lessens the subjective distance, I think, between �World� and �Style.� The article in question was on page 1 of section G of the dead trees edition of today�s paper, better placement perhaps than the page 7 of section C technology articles. In fact, since my quibble is about layout, you might want to take a peek at the TECHNOLOGY link. You�ll see that Rosenbloom�s �Fashion� story is listed at the bottom of the 2/21/2008 Technology index page.
2. Ms. Rosenbloom writes for STYLE. It�s her beat. The emphasis on beat journalism is shifting all across the country, but the NYT today seems to pretty much segregate their contributors by section. Rosenbloom�s work frequently has a technology focus, but the emphasis on people and popular culture manifestation makes it well placed in STYLE. TECHNOLOGY articles in today�s paper were written by people named: Steve, Steven, Jesse (disambiguation - Jesse is male), Miguel, Michael, Saul and Stephanie. Some of these are cross linked from the BUSINESS section. Stephanie�s story is cross linked from FASHION. (All the Fashion writers today are female, and the rest of the STYLE sections breaks out a 2 to 1 ratio women to men writers).

Today the TECHNOLOGY stories are boring BS about companies and products. The STYLE stories are about people, their homes and their lives. To the extent that the journalists themselves live in isolated silos of beat journalism, and their editors are happy each with his or her own fiefdom, I think that this is how they�ll be publishing the paper for some time to come. I think the real challenge at the NYT comes down to integrating women tech writers and women science writers. (Today�s SCIENCE section included stories by Dennis, Kenneth, Thom, Keith, Martin, William, and Warren).

I think when you only have "Tom, Dick, and Harry" sitting in the story conferences you are unlikely to get stories about Mary, Sally, and Jane

Posted by: fp at February 21, 2008 06:16 PM

Hi Frank,

When i looked this morning at 7am, at the technology section, the article wasn't there (i did it because I was thinking of linking to the section but later decided against it.)

Also, now that the story is in Technology (are they reading all these blog posts?) why is it at the bottom?

Again, this is a ranking thing the NYT does, with navs, with story lists, with types of content, and I agree these things are breaking down, but it exposes what they think.

Stephanie may want to do more weighty stories, but she has to frame them as fashion, but that story, to me, had little do with with fashion except that it was based on young women, who were designing code for looks and for function. I only see that the editors are unable to move things due to their structures, which keep women, as Elisa said above, "pinkified" when dealing with tech.


Posted by: mary hodder at February 21, 2008 06:41 PM

I think the times uses "Fashion and Style" as a proxy for a women's section, and it needed a women's section here because the perspective of the article was kind of a team sports thing, something like "here's a victory by the home team."

Whether that's right is a different story. I'm just saying that I think this is the framework.

Posted by: Lucas Gonze at February 22, 2008 03:42 PM

Hi Lucas,
You may be right, but if you are in the "women's team" you may not like it so much. I don't want my work put on the "women's page" because it's a ghetto, when the serious stuff that affects my pay, my status in the community, my future prospects and my ability to work with the top people is all happening over on Tech and Biz.

If I were a fashion design, I'd be thrilled. But not as a technologist.

Posted by: mary hodder at February 22, 2008 04:06 PM

Isn't this sort of like reaching back to lend a hand? Why not expend a bit of your hard won achievement on undignified placement in the women's ghetto if it increases the likelihood that women who don't yet read the business section would be inspired?

Posted by: Lucas Gonze at February 22, 2008 05:03 PM

yes, but if i'm in the ghetto, why do i need to "reach back".. i'm not outside it, in that scenario. I'm in it, i can just reach across to help. and if i'm elsewhere in the tech section, i then i want other women to be there too, taken seriously.

what i'm saying is, why are NYT editors deciding that tech men are in the tech section and tech women in fashion? much of what we get as improvement options in tech occurs because other's invite us into something, show us something, and ask us to lead or give us funding and much of that is based upon reputations, as well as other things like how interesting your ideas are, how hard you work, how you work with others (many other fields as well.. I just am talking about this one.)

so you do need others to succeed yes? and their understanding of where you fit into things matters, at least somewhat, yes? maybe not for your opinion of yourself, but once you want to build more, you do need to play with others in some way. and some of that is about distinguishing yourself, which can come with help from recommendations. and an NYT article, while old media, is still read by many, and referenced, and matters somewhat for that sort of recommendation of legitimacy.

interesting thing for me is that all the men who've emailed me, or commented on this, think women should be happy about this, and all the women who've said something don't.

why do you think that is?

Posted by: mary hodder at February 22, 2008 05:14 PM

Hi Mary,
You said, "[The] interesting thing for me is that all the men who've emailed me, or commented on this, think women should be happy about this, and all the women who've said something don't. why do you think that is?"

I'll stand by the observations I made here and on my blog, but the way I read your (rhetorical) question, I think you are implying something that is not fair.

I would turn the question around and ask "Why do YOU think that is?" Do you think we are unreconstructed sexists, or blind to gender disparities? Do you think we are talking from a position of unearned power and can simply be cavalier about these matters?

For me there is an irony in the fact that many women simply want to be free to compete with men on an equal footing, to know that the corporate glass ceilings have been removed, to be able to achieve success or failure in the marketplace free from stigmatizing gender distinctions, free from gender based imbalances of power.

At the point of equality and freedom is where the political discussion can begin, I think.

What can I do to help eliminate the disparities? Besides agitating for more "women in technology" articles on the NYT Technology page (although that would be good), I think it's important to try to influence them to hire more women as tech and science writers, and not just to write the "girly" features.


Posted by: fp at February 22, 2008 08:40 PM

Deep breaths please, just because the content is tech grrlz doesn't mean that the topic/point is one of fashion... Wow, haven't seen this genderizing insta-flipout since the last Hillary Clinton sing-along.

Posted by: deep breaths at March 2, 2008 04:22 PM

Frank: I will write a post on that.. i think it's more than a comment.

deep breaths: people subscribe to sections, often, online. when NYT puts "fashion" in the url, and segregate the stories, they are segregating the topic and the content.

I guess you would agree that men in tech stories should go in the sports section, since it doesn't matter anyway, and we need to get the jocks into tech, yes?

my point here is that women in tech, placed in fashion, is a stereotype, and as a woman in tech, i don't like it.

are you telling me i should take a 'deep breath' and just sit on the segregation? and not worry about it?

or are you saying that the NYT sections mean nothing? if that's the case, then why do they publish in topic sections and lay out their navigation in topic areas, ranked? they are pretty powerful, and as much as i'd like to pretend their choices don't matter, they do.


Posted by: mary hodder at March 3, 2008 05:13 PM