A Concluding Pledge: With Technology and Justice for All

A Concluding Pledge: With Technology and Justice for All

Mary Kirk (Metropolitan State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-786-7.ch011


This book has offered one feminist’s perspective on how a deeper understanding of our dominator social system might clarify why women are underrepresented as developers, users, and beneficiaries of technology. I have suggested that we move beyond the attitude of simply providing access to the more encompassing goal of co-creating a partnership social system. This approach will increase the participation of women, as well as other currently underrepresented populations, in information technology. In the end, co-creating a partnership global IT industry is about building relationships founded in an attitude of empathy and caring that informs all of our human relations. Although I have attempted to offer a vision of what partnership in IT might look like in relation to media, language, education, and business, the best efforts to increase the participation of women as developers, users, and beneficiaries of technology will be broad-based, multifaceted, include many more perspectives than mine, and involve all of our social institutions. In earlier chapters, I have suggested some places to begin. Breaking through false assumptions about the purpose and relevance of women’s studies and feminist science studies, along with perspectives from many other disciplines, is a key to exploring a rich mine of ideas about how our current social system operates and how we might work together to co-create a more hospitable social climate for all. Undoing the damage done by dualistic thinking and stereotypes will take us a long way towards a richer understanding of our shared human experience. Reframing some of the core assumptions of the philosophy of science—primarily the founding assumption that science is male and nature is female—will offer new perspec tives from which to understand our increasingly complex scientific and technical knowledge tradition. Citizens of the United States of America have learned to think of themselves as members of the world’s greatest democracy. We call our nation the “land of opportunity” and we rely on the “myth of meritocracy” (the idea that anyone can achieve anything by their own efforts) without any acknowledgement of the institutionalized barriers that make it much harder for some. However, we have yet to live up to a true democratic ideal as a nation, and one of the reasons for this is the power of unnamed stereotypes. Learning more about the power of media as a social institution to shape our views about ourselves and one another is a critical component of any lasting social change. Henderson (1996) describes the global mass information system as a new kind of “government” that she calls a “mediocracy” run by large businesses and financial interests (p. 112). At the same time, Henderson also shares my hope for what the media could do if we all participated in information technology: “Mass media could become a national feedback mechanism by providing a random-access conduit for all the wisdom, creativity, and diversity of our citizens” (Henderson, 1996, p. 117). That is the potential that a partnership approach to information technology can help us manifest.
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Globalization and the shift to the postindustrial age are bringing great economic and social dislocation. This dislocation is a source of fear for many people. But it also offers an unprecedented opening for new and better ways of thinking and living. It offers us the opportunity to use our vision and ingenuity to help create the social and economic conditions that support our evolution as individuals, as a species, and as a planet. (p. 24)

The global IT industry could participate in our human evolution in vastly more productive ways if we adopt a partnership perspective.

What might we ask from ourselves as individuals and from each other as a society? In Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (2005) cites Reinhold Niebuhr who described the difference between a person and a society: “The expectations from a person are a much higher standard. A person should have as our goal complete agape, self-sacrificial love. The most we can expect from a society is to institute simple justice” (p. 59). The 21st century will be dominated by the fast-paced sharing of digitized information and many other technologies. It seems that the least we could ask of our society is the “simple justice” of including all of our global citizens as developers, users, or beneficiaries of the technologies that will increasingly impact their lives. However, I also believe that Riane Eisler’s (1987, 2000, 2002, 2007) concept of partnership offers us a way to achieve far more than simple justice. Contributing to the development of a partnership society—one that holds empathy and caring as one of its highest values—might actually lead us towards our highest potential as human beings, the manifestation of agape. Perhaps, in pledging ourselves to creating a digital world with technology and justice for all, we might find our way to the experience of agape. What a world that might be.

This chapter offers a few ideas for co-creating this kind of partnership world by exploring: (1) ideas for future research, (2) ideas for what one individual can do, and (3) my own story of learning about partnership. However, these ideas are only a pencil sketch of some possibilities. The more we all commit to educating ourselves about these issues, and the more we all practice at partnership, the more we can co-create broader visions far beyond what I have suggested here.


Ideas For Future Research

The major reasons that girls and women do not participate in science and technology (as users and beneficiaries, but especially as developers of it) have been well-documented over time by multiple scholars (e.g., Brainard & Carlin, 2001; Camp, 1997; Cohoon & Aspray, 2006; Margolis & Fisher, 2002; Seymour & Hewitt, 1997; Sonnert, 1995). Table 1 lists the major reasons that girls and women leave science and technology in association with the core issues involved and where these issues have been addressed in this book.

Table 1.
Reasons women leave correlated with issues and chapter where discussed
Reason girls, women leaveCore issues involvedChapters where discussed
male-centered culture of sciencedualisms, stereotypes, and male-centered IT cultureII, V, VIII
different cultural values, ignored
 or unacknowledgeddualisms, stereotypes, male-centered IT culture, media, communication, education, businessAll
gender constraints on assertivenessdualisms, stereotypes, male-centered IT culture, media, communicationI, II, III, IV, V, VIII
internalization of negative stereotypesdualisms, stereotypes, male-centered IT culture, media, communication, educationI, II, III, IV, V, VI, VIII
discrimination and sexual harassmentdualisms, stereotypes, male-centered IT culture, mediaI, II, III, IV, V, VIII
perceived “hardness” of sciencedualisms, stereotypes, male-centered IT culture, history, educationII, III, V, VI
few women role models, mentorsmale-centered IT culture, communication, history, educationV, VI, VIII, IX
inadequate high school preparationdualisms, stereotypes, history, educationII, III, V, VI, IX
limited pedagogical approacheshistory, educationVI, IX
competitive weed-out traditioneducationIX
emphasis on grades over learningeducationIX

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