From programming pioneer Ada Lovelace to KTH’s own robotics visionary Danica Kragic, women have made great scientific contributions to improving our quality of life.
Yet, the world of engineering and technology—like many worlds—continues to be a man’s world.
That’s starting to change, but not fast enough. KTH and other technical universities have ambitious initiatives to achieve gender balance, yet overall the numbers are not that impressive.
Things can be done at the university level, and at the professional level, to attract more women applicants. But, honestly, we are up against some powerful forces—and these start working their influence at the very beginning of life.
Yeah, I’m talking about gender roles. They don’t just come out of thin air. Children don’t choose gender roles—adults assign them. It’s what’s known as gendering.
It’s amazing how prevalent gendering is, when you are on the lookout for it. My wife and I live in a pretty non-traditional society, Sweden, and we’ve tried to maintain a gender neutral mix of toys and clothing, and activities for our children. But our efforts only go so far. They’re no match for the combined influence of friends, neighbors, schoolmates, aunts and uncles, grandparents, TV shows or — last but not least — marketing.
Marketing is where gender messages really gather force.
Just take a quick walk through the boys’ side of your local toy or clothing store this weekend. You don’t even have to look at the merchandise. The colors are nearly enough to tell the story: On the boys’ side you’re greeted by hues of gray and black and safety yellow. The colors of steel, asphalt and stone, of a life spent building and keeping the city’s infrastructure running, and solving problems for the mass public. And on the girls’ side: Pink—and white. But mostly pink.
So, to mark International Women’s Day, I’d like to share some marketing that KTH produced in order to push the social norms in another direction—one that opens doors for young women and strengthens institutions like our university.
It’s called “Giants”, and it begins with this thought: “The future is too important to be left to men”. It’s great to see.
And there’s absolutely no pink in it.