Hegemonic masculinity in technology

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The debate on gender and technology has been long, and it seems not to be ending soon. The field of technology has mainly been depicted to be a masculine domain with the females occupying the peripheral positions.  Using the film “Iron Man” as the primary, technology is depicted as a masculine domain despite women playing a vital role in the field currently.  In the film “Iron Man” Tony Stark is depicted as a superhero, with unique technological know-how and confidence in the use of the technical gadget. However, there is a scene in the film where Tony Stark almost dies after a dysfunction of the heart he is operating on. However, her partner Pepper who is mostly treated as one who lacks technological know-how steps in to save his life. She fixes Tony’s heart despite occupying a peripheral position. I choose the scene since it demonstrates that despite Tony being represented as a macho man he has some insufficiencies that need the assistance of her female partner to fix.

The lighting used just over his also demonstrates that despite being represented as a superior being he has no confidence in himself and the technology he is using. In this paper, I will argue that representation of technology as a masculine domain is a socially constructed phenomenon that is intended to support hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy legitimacy at the expense of women.  Women are dominantly represented as technology users rather than developers and designers. The role of women in technology is underrepresented, and socially held constructs aggravate that.

Technology has become a very vital element in every aspect of life from health, housing, transport to simple tools used at home. However, the role of gender in use and design of technology has been socially constructed leading to the positioning of men and masculinity as prominent players in the technology field (Wajcman 30). It has been widely acknowledged that men mainly occupy the prominent roles in technology and they play a vital role in influencing new technologies.  For many years men have been represented as having a strong affinity to machines and acquisition of technical skills. A study by Kleif and Faulker (320) established that men have a strong relationship with technology and with other men in the technology domain. The strong association with technology has helped to promote technology as a men’s culture. However, the feminist in the technology sector asserts that technology is a mutually constituted aspect that involves both males and females (Lohan 901). For instance, Cockburn (50) argues that men position themselves in the critical technological positions for long and that has helped to symbolize structure and identify technology as a masculine domain. Acquisition of technical skills has always been used as a measure of “real manhood” in society over the years.

The social construction and symbolism of technology as the masculine domain has been created over an extended period. Men for a long time have been represented as dedicating their time and resources to the development of knowledge while the woman has been portrayed as consumers of technology rather than developers (de Freitas, Lucas, da Luz 2). The symbolic representation of technology as a reserve for men has played a salient role in restricting women entry into the field of technology (Palmer 12). For instance, Cabral et al. (90) argue that the marginalization of women in the acquisition of technical skills and work that require technical skills has situated them as consumers of technology rather than designers.  Moreover, de Freita and da Luz (4) argue that women have participated for a long time in the science and technology field, but their contribution is not recognized in the same way men’s contribution is regarded. The social construction of gender roles has historically represented women as taking part in domestic roles while men participate in roles that require technical skills and that has helped demarcate technology as a masculine domain.

Several myths have been developed to limit women entry in the field of science and technology (Ceci and Williams 3158). The biological differences between men and women have for a long time been considered as the cause of disparities in the drive to succeed in science and technology education and careers.  However, a study by Ceci and Williams (3159) established that there is no evidence from brain structure, function, and cognitive development to qualify that men have better chances of excelling in science and technology than women.

Moreover, there is a universal belief that academic merit of a person determines his success in the career path he chooses. However, it has been evident from studies that sexual discrimination has significantly affected women in the science and technology field (Sturm 98). Ceci and Williams (3160) claim that women and men have equal chances of choosing science and technology subjects in schools, but women go for subjects that will not affect their social life. Suter (11) adds that stereotypes impede women from choosing science and technology subjects and careers because they believe they are more related to men than women. Moreover, lack of information and support in the society also influence and impede women from choosing science, mathematics, engineering and technology subjects.  According to Suter (23), most of the science and technology fields are dominated by men and the men may deny women information regarding the fields because the men feel more comfortable working with men than with females. Despite women attaining the credentials needed in the science and technology field, utilization of the credentials is impeded by stereotypes and social constructions that support that technology is a masculine domain. A study by Trix and Pzenka (216) found systemic stereotypes make female receive less favorable career recommendations than men. Trix and Pzenka (216) found that men were recommended using stronger adjectives than their female counterparts in the technological field.

Females have also for a long a time been represented as having fewer capabilities to produce knowledge as compared to their male counterparts. Subsequently, structural barriers were created in the past that denied women equal access to technological and technical skills as compared to their male counterparts (Baker, and Leary 5). Education segregation has been demonstrated in the way the boy and girl child are channeled into the different subject in high schools and institutions of higher-learning (Murray, and Graham 665). More male students than females are enrolled in science education courses. Limited enrollment of women in the science and technology courses has played a significant role in promoting the symbolism of technology as a masculine territory. Moreover, females have also been discriminated in employment opportunities in the field of technology. More males than females occupy most of the positions that are related to science and technology (Comeau, and Candace 221). Limited female entry into the field of science and technology is partly due to the stereotypical connotations associated with technological jobs (Gorman 705). Despite the entry of women in the science and technology career paths, their roles are anchored on gender-based representations. Women are positioned in supportive roles while men occupy the leadership positions. It is stereotype that women cannot balance leadership and domestic roles such as being a wife and mother. The socially held stereotypes about women deny them the opportunity to stamp their authority effectively in the science and technology sector.

While sex discrimination has been the main cause of underrepresentation of women in science and education, inequality in sharing of resources has become the challenge (Ceci 3164). According to Ceci (3164), the perception of sex discrimination has now faded, and inequality in the sharing of resources between sexes is the main cause of women underrepresentation in the science and technology field. The structural position that women occupy in society denies them equal access to resources and that reduces their productivity not only in the technology field but also in other domains. The socially based gendered expectations continue to create structural barriers that deny women equal chances in access to resources. Therefore, women are pushed into career opportunities that do not demand too much effort because women have to strike a balance between career and family life.

In conclusion, the barrier structures created through social constructions and stereotypes have been a major cause of women underrepresentation in technology. Women are denied equal access to resources, support, and information regarding technology making them underprivileged. Women who are lucky to enter into technology occupy the peripheral position as it is put that they cannot strike a good balance between marriage life and leadership. Giving women equal access to opportunities, resources and information will play an essential role in enhancing women participation in technology. Social norms and stereotypes should not be used to impede women from entering or succeeding in technology.

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