A New Approach

A New Approach

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5860-8.ch002
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Abstract

We are in new times that call for new ways of thinking. Digital disruption is almost the norm, and the power of social media has shaken governments. The emergence of this new disruptive Social Era demands a new model for framing the cultural, social and structural contexts, and influences on women in IT. Such a model is presented in the “STEMcell” Model, a unique 3D Earth-style visualisation that incorporates the influence of social media in its #SocialIT layer and brings new recognition to the central role of the individual at and as its core. The rules have changed, so when viewing women in technology, it is time to adapt and adopt the new model. It is time to consider the core significance of the individual and the seismic digital disruptions and tectonic technological changes we are experiencing and move towards a new approach. The rules of the new social era are translated into new rules of encouraging women in IT in this chapter. The key is that small, fast, fluid, and distributed will prevail over large, stable, and centralised.
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You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete

– Buckminster Fuller: architect, inventor and futurist. (Goodreads, 2013)

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Introduction

“Over the last 20 years much has been done to encourage female students to choose computing courses and computing careers. Some instances of positive effects have been reported, yet the proportional disparity in gender in this discipline continues to grow” (Ashcraft, Eger & Friend, 2012).

“Attraction, Promotion and Retention” has been the catch cry of many passionate activists in this field around the globe for more than two decades. Yet to date the “secret” of:

  • 1.

    attracting females to study technology and to enter technology careers;

  • 2.

    navigating suitable promotional pathways; and

  • 3.

    retaining women in technology industries

has not yet been discovered despite significant global efforts. Why is this? What has been done and what can be done? What is at the core of this issue?

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A New Era

We are in a new era where every Facebook post, Tweet, Pinterest, meme, Instagram upload, Tumblr share, Digg, YouTube video, Hangout, crowdsourcing project and social media group and/or community can make a difference. And if that list of examples is already outdated by the time you read this, it simply stresses how quickly this new era is evolving.

Social media have grown from the early Internet days of people connecting via CompuServe and bulletin boards to the first blogs and forums to the development of multiple social networking sites, news aggregators and crowdsourcing platforms (Curtis, 2013), through to the formation of digital revolutions that have been super-charged by social tools.

Two examples of recent seismic digital revolutions are:

  • It is widely reported (Mainwaring, 2011; Boyd 2011) that social media had a powerful influence before and after the 2011 Egyptian revolution. That revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of Mubarak’s government, is known as both the “Arab Spring” and “Facebook revolution” (Bogart, 2013). Social networks quickly sprung up as both a source of news and a means for organization of protests and rallies. In 2013 Egypt faced similar circumstances concerning the first democratically elected president, however “no longer is social media in Egypt used just by activists, politicians have now joined the conversation as they have understood the importance and the power of social media” (Bogart, 2013).

  • Similarly, fed by deregulation of the telecommunications industry there is a digital revolution change occurring in the Pacific Islands. “The Pacific Islands region is in the midst of an information and communications technology (ICT) revolution that could have major implications, particularly for democratic governance and the region’s development. In urban, and increasingly in rural settings, Pacific Islanders are using new digital tools to communicate, form online networks and coordinate” (D. Cave, 2012). Cave notes the importance of social media in this phenomenon: “This influx of mobile phones in the Pacific Islands has occurred at the same time as another global phenomenon sweeping the world, the rise of social media, and the Pacific’s growing mobile phone penetration has helped fuel social media uptake. Access to social media communities is enabling Pacific Islanders to connect with one another, form online networks, share content, project opinion, promote debate and coordinate activities in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. This has resulted in the emergence of a Pacific ‘digital generation’ of activists, thinkers, informers and influencers.” As a result, “In particular, the combination of these powerful digital tools has given Pacific Islanders greater opportunity to harness, influence and promote political and social change in the region. Led by bloggers, digital entrepreneurs and social media groups in Papua New Guinea, a Pacific ‘digital generation’ is emerging that is playing an increasingly influential role in society” (D. Cave, 2012).

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