Thursday, July 24, 2008

Book Review: Tech girls are chic! (not just geek!)

At the CCI conference I was fortunate enough to meet Jenine Beekhuyzen, IT consultant and PhD candidate at Griffith University, who together with Rebecca Dorries has compiled and edited the book, Tech girls are chic! (not just geek!). The book was inspired by Beekhuyzen and Dorries's experiences in the IT industry, which even in this day and age remains dominated by males, and is an effort to get girls aged 12-16 interested in careers in IT.

From the Tech girls are chic! website:

Tech girls are chic, not just geek is a fun new book showing that it takes all types of people to work in Information Technology (IT). Our 16 'tech girls' are women working in a range of technology jobs across Australia. They are a bunch of fun and funky women who find working with technology challenging and interesting, and they are far from fitting the stereotypical 'geek' image portrayed by the media. They use their technical and/or non-technical skills (usually a combination of both) to have a successful career in IT.

So who wouldn't want to work with technology? There are heaps of jobs all over the world, travel to exotic locations, interesting and challenging work, and you often don't have to work in a boring office. Sounds like a great career? We think so! So why do so few people (especially girls) choose this type of career? That's a great question. Researchers have been trying to uncover this mystery for many years, and conclude that the industry has a serious image problem. The stereotype is that working with technology is boring, and that you have to be nerdy and spend all day in front of a computer alone. This is not what Information Technology (IT) is all about. Once you see the book you will see why! You can see a bunch of fabulous gals who work with technology every day; and they love it...

Jenine was kind enough to give me a free copy of the book. It is small, pink and oh so pretty (perfect for the target audience). It profiles 16 women in the IT industry, and each woman has section in the book consisting of:
  1. a profile page containing a small paragraph written about themselves, a colour photo and other quirky designs;
  2. a “question and answer” type page covering a variety of topics ranging from 'what is your job' to 'what is your favourite girly movie' and 'what handbags and shoes do you own' (clearly to demonstrate the feminine “chic not geek” side to the women); and
  3. interestingly, a short (2 page) fiction piece, written by each woman, presumably drawing on her own life experiences. I especially enjoyed, “Toto, I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore” by Julie Kilner, about male/female stereotypes in IT (it rather comically considers the "World of Warcraft" IT boy stereotype).

The book is clearly written to a target audience of young girls, but notwithstanding I had fun reading this text. It is light but informative, and scattered throughout the book (amongst the stories and pictures) are advertisements for IT degrees at universities, links to helpful websites and “what do I do next?” guidance. I think that young girls interested in IT would find this book helpful and accessible.

The book can be ordered online by contacting the authors via the Tech girls are chic! website. Sponsorship has been raised to allow the authors to distribute the book free to secondary school girls across Australia.

(Side note: the website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (BY-NC-ND) licence).

No comments: