How do you see student affairs as a whole encouraging women in technology? In what ways do we NOT do a good job encouraging women in technology?
When I saw the blog prompt for today, I was excited to have the opportunity to respond. I have been working with technology for the entire decade I have been in student affairs. I did not choose to go into student affairs (does anyone, or do we all have that one experience that leads us on that path?), nor did I ever see myself working in technology when I was an undergraduate. Turns out I had a natural skill with technology, and was fortunate to have a supervisor who mentored me well, and encouraged me to develop and refine these skills.
In my experience, working with technology is frequently position based, and those positions tend to have more men gravitate to them. When I was in college, I did everything I could to avoid computer/technology classes. I liked using computers for email and the internet, but never felt like I had much skill there otherwise. How might my future have been different if I had a mentor in college push on why I was afraid of technology? What was it about technology that scared me so much? Once I started digging into various technologies (for me, it’s campus Housing software and social media) I found a passion for it and a natural ability to use and explain it to others. What a gift that potentially went undeveloped!
My guess is, if you ask other women in Student Affairs, they will have a similar story regarding technology. I was fortunate to find a supervisor and mentor who encouraged me, but I also had to get over some of my internalized fear of my ability with technology. In hindsight, how could I possibly know my ability with technology if I never gave myself the chance to try?
In student affairs, we are great at mentoring each other, but have been traditionally slow to embrace technology to enhance our work. How can we mentor each other if we haven’t taken the time to develop these skills ourselves? When you look at Computer Science classes and majors, you will still see more men than women. Why is that? I recently blogged about an experience I had this summer being the only woman in a technology training. The questions I asked in that post are still relevant now. Women are not encouraged to follow careers in technology, and I find this to be very sad. Think of the lost potential! Maybe the next Steve Jobs is named Stephanie, and she’s just looking for that gentle nudge of encouragement!
As a profession, student affairs needs to continue to embrace technology. I look to my fellow women who have embraced technology to lead our profession in moving forward with technological initiatives. Utilizing technology doesn’t have to squelch the face-to-face interaction with students; it can be used to enhance our interactions! Furthermore, those of us who are more adept at technology should seek out ways to mentor and encourage other women to try technology. We need to embrace any fear we have, and continue to help our profession evolve when it comes to technology.