As reported yesterday in the New York Times (interestingly enough in the Fashion and Style section), it is adolescent and teenage girls, not boys, who provide the lion’s share of content on the web. This means sites, blogs, personal profile pages, graphics, and the like.
And yet, despite the fact that girls are dominating when it comes to content creation, the computer science and technology industry is dominated by males. Why the disconnect?
Well, first let’s look at the facts among users, according to a study on teens and social media by the Pew Internet & American Life Project:
35% of girls ages 12-17 blog
20% of boys ages 12-17 blog
32% of girls ages 12-17 create their own web pages
22% of boys ages 12-17 create their own web pages
70% of girls ages 15-17 have social networking profiles
57% of boys ages 15-17 have social networking profiles
And on the flip side, women account for only about 27 percent of jobs in computer science.
Now the only question is “Why?” And while some so-called “experts” have opinions, nothing much is being said that is surprising. On one hand, the fact that girls create most of the content on the web can be easily explained away by the idea that “Girls learn to make stories about themselves,” “Girls are creative,” “Girls are programmed to socialize and communicate.”
But how do you explain the disconnect? Why are girls willing to spend tireless hours creating sparkly MySpace layouts for other people to use, but less interested in developing software, pioneering new technology, or cracking a code?
The easy answer is clearly to look towards society and cite gender stereotypes and the fact that men have dominated the computer sciences for so long as the explanation for the lack of women in the industry. But aren’t things changing? If they enjoy technology for content purposes, what stops girls from wanting to take it to another level? If creating web content is serving girls’ natural desire to communicate, connect, and express themselves, are we saying that is enough?