Not a good way to recruit women? Act as if they all like pink frilly pink frills all over everything.
To start, there were the pitches from college engineering programs in curly purple typeface accented by flowery images. She started to notice that many websites for budding female engineers are pink. Then there was the flyer for an after-school program hanging in a hallway of her high school. Printed on purple polka-dot paper, it read, “Are you a tech girl? Are you a web diva?”
The soon-to-be high school senior aspires to become an engineer of some sort. She has absolutely no interest, however, in a career as a “web diva.”
“It seems so degrading,” Wheat said. “If you’re a girl interested in building websites, you’re a ‘web diva.’ If you’re a boy, you’re a web developer.”
Well it’s because you’re a girl, which is not normal. Real, normal people are engineers. Girls who go into engineering are engineeressettes.
Wheat had discovered what Elizabeth Losh, a digital culture scholar at UC San Diego, calls “ridiculous, pink, sparkly techno-princess land.”
Pink websites and polka-dotted flyers are what happens when an entire field overcorrects.
Recruit women! Make the environment welcoming to women, by all means. But vanishingly few women want to live inside a Pepto-Bismol bottle.
…as Wheat sees it, the problem with techno-princess land is that it attempts to combat the stereotype that technology is a guy thing with stereotypes of what women want.
The overflow of pink in her inbox moved the Virginia teen to pen an opinion piece, which was recently a runner-up in a New York Times teen editorial contest.
“It says that the only way you can be interested in technology is if it is girly,” said Wheat. “I’m very girly. My room is purple. I have floral bedding. I think I’ll probably be a very feminine engineer. I just don’t like the idea of being pigeonholed.”
But pigeons are so sweet and girly and adorable.
At a recent Bay Area tech mixer put on by Girl Geek Dinners, the tech company that chose the decor elected to replace office lightbulbs with pink and purple ones, bathing the entire event in a fuchsia glow. An open bar was covered with a pink sequined runner. Guests were encouraged to take a Cosmo-style personality quiz revealing their nerd girl personas and given slap-bracelets and strawberry lip balm at the door.