For our second round of dBs Dialogues we focused on how education and exposure, as well as social stereotypes, might impact the numbers of women in tech industries. Leading us on this exploration beyond the area of electronic music was Josa Peit. She also showed us how to turn a banana into a musical instrument.
Her creative uses of circuit boards, wires and fruit, have come in handy when helping organise the German leg of EU Code Week. This initiative connects volunteers with children in the hopes of getting them interested in technology, coding and computer science. Since it is very difficult to separate electronic music and music production from the gear that it requires, this is an important aspect to examine when trying to figure out why so few women are involved in these fields. Josa’s input on this area was insightful and she might be onto something when she says we should do more work to get both boys and girls interested. More projects like these will hopefully reverse the trends that have been going since the ‘80s, as seen in this graph.
Interestingly enough, the sudden drop of the red line can be correlated with a series of ads released around then which featured (mostly only) boys and computers. When Josa showed us this data, it immediately sparked a discussion on imagery. It is a powerful thing to associate a ‘kind’ of person with a ‘type’ of product because as we can see – it works. When it comes to stereotypes, the link between nerdy boys and computers is a well-trodden trope, and the effect of pairing these two in an ad seemed to dissuade girls from being interested in the topic. But does the disparity really just come down to bad advertising?
If only it were so simple!
Sadly, there is mounting evidence that the women who have managed to be involved in computer science have been erased from history. There are also some unsettling trends being found where women perceive themselves as worse in STEM subjects even though they perform as well as men. With a reality like this, women’s only groups like the EQ network (which also welcomes trans people) can be an amazing resource for marginalised groups. In these safe spaces they can share skills, offer mutual support and gain confidence. Josa was one of the original members of the EQ network in Berlin and showed us some awesome photos of some sessions where they soldered their own microphones and let them (ironically) cool on baking trays.
For more on what Josa shared with us, check out our recap video below. In there you’ll find a clip of our panel playing the banana that she rigged up for us.
Additionally, check out the super creative tracks that kids made on a raspberry pi computer.
The full audio of the session can be listened to on Soundcloud.