Though the commercial succeeds in communicating the exciting breadth of developments coming forth from the mobile technology industry, could the commercial also be sending a more harmful message? Specifically, does the distinct absence of female innovators signal to women that they do not belong or would not excel in the technology field? The featured men are depicted as prominent innovators in the field, whereas in the video, the only women shown are in positions of service (i.e., flight attendant and sales person).
Research conducted in the Stereotypes, Identity, and Belonging Lab has demonstrated that when people are assessing whether they would fit in a given context, they look to cues in the environment to gauge their sense of belonging. This commercial may act as an environmental cue, sending a message about the environment that women may encounter in the technology world—an environment in which only males are capable of innovation. These cues could perpetuate the underrepresentation of women in computer science by leading women to question their belonging in the field.
Women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions in technology and science has not gone unnoticed; many groups are working on projects to provide women with more information about the prevalence of women in science. In October of 2012 the Royal Society held an edit-a-thon of Wikipedia pages in order to increase awareness of women’s contributions to science throughout history (the story was covered by BBC News). Also, the Victorian ICT for Women Network asked successful women who work in technology fields to send photos with their name and position to be showcased at an event called GoGirl, Go for IT this past June. The event was meant to help recruit female high school students into IT majors. By emphasizing women’s role and representation in science and technology, these groups are providing counter-stereotypical information to women about their representation in science.
So what do you think? Might the Best Buy commercial influence women’s sense of belonging in technology? Do you think programs like the edit-a-thon and Go Girl Go for IT will encourage women to join the sciences? Or do you think it might remind women that they are underrepresented and deter them even more?
Posted by: Amanda
Posted by: Amanda