Overwhelming male dominance

When I was reading Ny Teknik, a Swedish weekly about technology and engineering, a few weeks ago, it suddenly struck me that the magazine was almost completely a male-only zone. I decided to do a control count, and yes, my impression was correct.

Fully 29 of the 33 individuals named in editorial content photographs, were male. In the next edition, (27/9), there was a slight improvement, but a clear majority, 24 of 37, were male. Altogether, 76 percent of the individuals whose name and photo were included in these two editions were male.

I have no idea whether Ny Teknik is an accurate representation of technology and engineering Sweden. Either way, it is not acceptable. Society is facing major changes that are very largely being driven by developments in technology. Digitalisation is sweeping through society like a monumental wind of change and we have perhaps only the slightest inkling of what this entails. The climate challenge means big changes whether or not we cut greenhouse gas emissions. We need both men and women in this scenario. We cannot have a debate about how technology is changing society that involves only (or mostly only) men. To quote from one of KTH’s campaigns: The future is too important to be left to men.

Sometimes it feels as though we need a gender-related state of emergency in the face of such overwhelming male dominance in technology fields. When you have a state of emergency, you can sometimes do things that under normal circumstances are not considered acceptable. Perhaps, we need something like this here. Such as quotas and targeted initiatives to achieve a better gender balance and tolerance of female dominated islands in a sea of male heavy environments.

PS to statistics nerds: I also did a count of people in adverts. In ads where individuals were named, 70 percent were men, compared to just 52 percent in ads without name checks (I only included individuals whose faces were clearly recognisable). In the case of journalists with byline photos, the figures were about even (54 percent men). With reservation for the odd miscount here and there, I think these figures are fascinating as advertisers can chose how they wish to portray themselves, and as often as not, this is as a male-dominated world. Apart from ads without named individuals (often job ads), they seem to want to communicate a different message.

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