Category Archives: Gender

Tech Armor, A Girl’s Security

Techny Armor 2

In many ways, the radio is old timey technology.  A throw back of simpler times, when air waves weren’t modulated and a slight hum was tolerable, as was fumbling with the dial to bring the station in clear.  Nowadays, I only listen when I’m alone driving in my car.

In that closed interior, with the world just beyond my windshield, I’m comforted to hear a voice other than the one in my head.  I tire of reminders,  conflict in my schedule, errands that I need to run and I things left undone, like the shirt that requires my attention and the button I keep forgetting to sew back on.  The radio’s DJ is friendly, almost bubbly with idle chatter, pertinent today, and boring enough so I don’t have to focus all of my attention, half-listening and half being indifferent and non-opinionated.

This is pure technology, copper wire and vacuum tubes, transistor radios, soldered circuitry that’s also portable.  Radio reaches people in a way that television never will, because there’s no visual accompaniment to distort one’s own self-image.   Without product placement, without luxury and without perfect abs.  Instead we’re captivated by a voice, the radio personality’s enthusiasm and a distinct annunciation of words.  In between commercials, there’s a nice mix of music.  I like singing along, belting out a Frank Sinatra song or absent mindedly humming along to Billie Holiday’s August in New York.

Ironically, I always have perfect pitch when no one else is the car, my inner ear comes out.   And then, the very best part of radio, is during the “goldie oldie” moment, when that one long forgotten song comes on and miraculously, I know the lyrics!  And soon the warm feelings return, the powdery fluff of nostalgia.  It makes me smile to myself, as I drive along the road.  And I’m reminded again that simple technology, like the radio has a powerful control over me.

Yesterday, a DJ invited listeners to call in with their stories.  One woman called in excitedly, she had recently lost 150 pounds.  Her happiness oozed from the radio’s airwaves.  This stranger made me smile.   Like her, as a kid I too had been teased, she plagued by obesity and me with my big nose.

Now, here she was on the radio sharing the fact that she carried an old photograph and called it a “Fattie-Selfie”,  a reminder of her former self.  And that was it, the radio personality acknowledged her achievement, told her that she was beautiful!  And then thanked her for calling in, made an off-handed comment about the telephone lines being lit up and took the next call.

I blinked, the era of stringed pearls and frilly aprons forever gone.  I glanced at my reflection in the rearview mirror.  Like the radio caller, I too was now comfortable with my looks, I seem to have grown into my big nose.  Or I wasn’t as self-conscious, perhaps a result of being too busy to take notice.  Still, I recall what it felt like, to not resemble the models in any of the fashion magazines.  When I was a young girl, fairytales always made me think being powerless was okay, by taking away the option of having power, as if by design.

As I pulled into an empty parking space, I saw a group of little girls eating ice-cream laughing, and enjoying their silliness.  They were at that perfect age, when looks don’t matter and eating has nothing to do with disorders.   That being self-sufficient means she can tie a good knot in her shoelaces, as a preamble to running wild and free.

The radio DJ introduced a new song, it was upbeat and a perfect segue from the girls back to my reality.  I reached over to cut the car engine off and thought those little girls will make their own shiny suits of armor; I hope it fits them well.

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Filed under Gender, Gender Equality, Girls, technology

Women & Technology Again

$ 0 Talk radio

It’s no longer the Golden Age of radio in America and finally girls will have more than a cracked fairy tale to be her moral guide.

All around her are images of womanhood, independent and clear.   Live-streaming, in movies and in newspapers, women are being positively depicted, and a young girl sees herself, without feeling uncomfortable in her skin.  Successful women like Hillary Clinton, Mae C. Jemison, Sara Blakely and Oprah Winfrey smile from the covers of glossy magazines.

The narrative has changed, she can do both- be a mother and have a career.  There’s no sky and no limit to her dreams; from pink sneakers to blue high heels, she can perform!   Hopefully she’ll think outside the gender box, because there’s no social corset and hairpins to keep her tied down, unless she wants to wear them.   Now, metaphorically and literally, she can breathe.

Technology has made life better for all, by freeing her from domestic drudgery to a life of luxury– washing machines and egg beaters gave the gift of time, to read books and to learn.  Because we always knew she could code, given the opportunity to learn code.

The apron has been spun around and the letter “S” reveals two things, one it always was a cape and two, it’s washable.   She has choices!  And while there’s much to get excited about, there’s still a wall to overcome.  Gender orientation is such a huge part of society’s psyche, that it’s not easily cast aside.  And maybe that’s why it continues to be practiced in maternity wards across the country, where the gender color-code begins, when our babies are separated by little blue bands for boys and a little pink bands for girls.   Shouldn’t we start out with the same, equally?

Instead, adults complete the gender code cycle, by unwittingly buying into the color system, toys that should be tools of development create subtle pigeon-holes.  We as a society still respond when we see a little boy playing with Barbie dolls, because we ourselves have been raised to adhere to the gender color code.   And so the stage is set and the cycle continues, gender orientation is passed awkwardly along from one generation to the next.

But things are changing, I did see a little boy playing with a pink truck.  And on Dacia Street a little girl was busy fixing the wheel of her baby carriage, her hands were dirty with axle grease.  I smiled, this is the stuff of her fairy tales.

And hopefully, babies will eventually all be allowed to grow up according to what’s in their heads, and not by what’s inside their diapers.

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Filed under Coding, Gender, Gender Equality, Girls

Mixing Technologies with Metaphors

$ eggbeater right

As revolutionary as the eggbeater was, it was innovation that freed her from the kitchen!

Technology has a certain knack for curbing and flexing time, so that even if we can’t create it, regenerate or domesticate it, we can work to get around it. By getting a task done in less time or arriving at our destination faster and faster.   We’re constantly working in a timeframe, trying not to lament or anguish over the loss of it, but to enjoy life.  After all, there are no life instructions, but if there were one would read:  “Absolutely No Do Overs”.

So gadgets, like the eggbeater, invented with good intentions and far-reaching implications have always been welcomed.  Not only did it efficiently mix ingredients, but it helped to make baking easier, cutting the cooking time to bake a cake in half!

Additional improvements were made to foods, which helped in preparation, including storage and processing.  Key products like sugar, that had proved difficult to use, sold in blocks or sugar cones that had to be cut and then broken into useable pieces were now being purchased in granulated sweetness!  Flour was now being sold pre-sifted, and the ice box, long vulnerable to melting in the summertime, was being replaced with an electric refrigerator.  Fresh eggs stored indoors!

Cooking ovens became more efficient, with a knob that controlled the temperature of the heat.  Gone were the days of baking disasters– open fires and damp fire wood, that flameless smoky soot.  Now the modern woman had the convenience of coal, gas and electricity with which to run her kitchen.  This ease of cooking led to clichés and it changed pop culture, “If I’d knew you were coming I’d a baked a cake,” was not only a song, it was her carefree attitude.

Women were no longer slaves in America’s kitchens chained to temperamental cast iron stoves.  With her new freedom came time to think and she began to join clubs.  Book clubs, garden clubs, philosophical and reading clubs, these seemed to form and sprout up everywhere.  She had time to think, to discuss her thoughts with other women and to reconsider the world, and her place in it, she became politically aware.

That’s innovation!

From electricity, the eggbeater was redesigned with two separate mixing arms and an ejector button that popped them off for easy cleaning.  Women found an additional use, she could quickly release the mixers and use them to pacify a baby.  Many a toddler was plopped in the middle of a kitchen floor and allowed to lick the cake batter from the mixers.

Technology has always valued time, with a monetary value established for a “by the hour” workforce.  Among men there has long been an equal day’s pay for equal work.  Unions made certain that compensation was fair.  But for some odd reason, that hasn’t had cross over appeal, call it gender inequity.

Hmmmm, maybe we’re mixing technology with our metaphors…

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Filed under gadget, Gender, Gender Equality, innovation, technology

Gender Technology

$$ tv circuit She

“Hello, up there!”

From the ground looking up, technology looked completely incapable of bringing anything of value into our homes.

Outstretched aluminum rods, like the arms of an umbrella’s skeleton were mounted and fastened on rooftops, so television signals could find their way into the living room.  It flowed along copper wires and quietly took over our lives.

It took less than 60 years for technology to completely shrink our world and go global, connecting us in ways vastly different from the box that allowed us to first watch a man land on the moon; an image that came across airwaves, like wings of a prayer, unseen.

We tuned into the same programs, at the same time and talked about the show for days.  We laughed at the same jokes, re-enacted parodies and fell in love with Lucy.

After a night of storms, people emerged and yelled out of windows that their television set now got a clearer channel, as though God and the wind had favored them. Particularly because their aerial antenna hadn’t been disturbed, they were spared of having to prop a ladder against the house and make adjustments. For better or worse, it was a marriage that required better positions to catch airwaves. Serious hi-tech stuff!

Responsive to either gender, equally manipulated and made to work or improved upon by a calloused hand of a man or the soft tender skin of a woman.

But back then, who knew that a girl could climb a ladder and make it picture perfect.  Norman Rockwell  had never depicted it that way in magazines. Instead she was dainty in her dress, with legs crossed properly at the ankles.

It took a long while, but now we know that technology has no gender bias. It favors neither pink nor blue; it’s ageless and doesn’t discriminate.

In fact, it encourages across the board collaboration and it’s empowering. Coding schools have opened doors to girls and to those who are impoverished, giving them amazing opportunities.  And in addition to that, an ecosystem has been created which shows gaps for skill sets needed to maintain the technology!

It’s more than we could’ve asked for, that a job shortage could actually bring about wage parity.  Imagine that, women being paid the same wages for the same work. We’re not there yet, but technology knows no gender.

 

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Filed under Gender, Gender Equality, Girls, Television, Women

Bartering Technology for Cool Pink Lemonade

11 Lemonade Girls

What if Norman Rockwell’s America had been depicted differently?

What if little boys and little girls were treated equally, that they might pursue similar dreams, based on their aptitude; and not by what was in their diapers.  Maybe then, coding, and entrepreneurships wouldn’t be as male dominated as they are…

What if “Rosie”, the Riveter wasn’t just a wartime phenomenon, but was commonly seen in everyday life, as a woman no more extraordinary than the housewife attached by an apron string, by choice.

What if after the war she was promoted to CEO and we saw that image as well.  What dreams might her daughters and grandchildren have and how might they have lived, seeing themselves depicted equally?

That’s what I think. And I’m only thinking that way now, because this past August my idea was accepted and then advanced to phase two of the YouNoodle competition, Verizon’s Powerful Answers.  And as I moved along in the competition, the portion which I found most difficult was entrepreneurial, because I had no training in that area.  So I did my research and pushed forward, but it did sit with me and ultimately, my idea was passed on.

That’s what encouragement or lack of encouragement does, it can sit and become a burden, one that vexes you, or it can inspire you to rise and push, that you might become your greater self.  I call it a lemonade stance!  Taking life’s lemons and bartering them for a chance to live your life, your way!

Sometimes, we do it to ourselves, because it might be easier to create our own club, rather than knock on the door of his club.  But we need to remember that separate is never equal.

And being comfortable to speak, doesn’t guarantee that we’ll be heard; because we’ve effectively made it easier to be ignored, as a group huddled to one side of society.

I’m not a history revisionist, but if I were… we’d all know the wives of the great men of America.  Her story, the wife’s story would be motivational, for surely she had a story, as we all do and must.

Of the five men who have been credited with making America one of the most affluent and influential countries in the world, we know very little of their wives.   Try looking them up, there’s very limited information about them and it’s not simply because of the times, but society that has historically and effectively stifled them.

In tribute…

Laura Celestia Spelman, Abolitionist, Philanthropist and teacher married John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil) who she met in an accounting class.

Sophie Johnson married Cornelius Vanderbilt (Railroad) and ran the Bellona House, a hotel for weary travelers of her husband’s steamships.

Clara Bryant married Henry Ford (Automobile) and along with gardening was a business supporter in her husband’s business deals, that included convincing him to sign off on a Union contract.

Frances Tracy (2nd wife) married J.P. Morgan (Financier).  She preferred the quiet of the suburbs and home.

Louise Whitfield married Andrew Carnegie (Steel) and was a philanthropist.  She said it best:  “I am the unknown wife of a somewhat well-known businessman.”

But it’s wintertime in New England, a wonderful time for white fluffy snow that appeals to our aesthetic sensibilities.  A good time to pause and ponder life’s inequities, and like snow, thaw ideas that then nourish future minds, and grow so a child might become her greater-self and he might know of her.

Let’s begin by bartering life’s lemons for lemonade; to build lemonade stands.  So we can pass along tech advice, while we sip on cool pink lemonade and reimagine stories of what a damsel in distress looks like.

Cheers!

 

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Filed under AARP, Coding, Entrepreneurship, Gender, Gender Equality, Girls, Women

Pink Lemonade, the New Slice of Pie

L Pies

“What’s my plan?”

I’m not sure how to respond; I’m trying to figure it out, as I go along.  Lately life has supplied a bushel of lemons, and I’m familiar with the saying “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade” but what I’d really like to know is how do I make it into a slice of lemon pie?

For years, I’ve been delving around on the internet trying to get published.  But working full-time and raising a family limited the time I spent and some sites that offered me a steady readership, PNN (defunct) and Yahoo, byline offered anemic compensation.

But I’ve also seen some succes.  There was a “Name Us” on-line contest, an experiment that went viral with international submissions.   I entered the name “Pxyl” and won.   The company has since been named to INC Magazine 5000 list, as one of America’s fastest growing companies, maybe there’s magic in a name.   I won a Kindle (I still have it) and they’ve mentioned my name a few times.

The MIT Age Lab in Cambridge, MA selected me to participate in a driving study.  I was exposed to new technology, and discovered that age does have its perks.   I was given the keys to a specially equipped vehicle, and connected by electronic leads to external computers, while video cameras mounted in the interior of the vehicle recorded me driving along the highway.    The data and my responses were gathered, collected and uploaded to a Cloud in real time.

The world is fast changing and I’m interested in everything!  This past August I was invited to Maine for a huge tech conference and saw first hand how the business IT landscape is changing.  And yes, I noticed that it was mostly men, so I was happy to write about the many doors that are opening for Girls Coding.   Meanwhile, the open platforms, the cost of processors (dropped) and the Internet of Things is real and it’s all rather amazing!

I’m a technician at heart.  My mind is trained to always approach a problem by getting on its good side, and the only dumb question, is the one that wasn’t asked.  So I started to ask questions on the internet to anonymous engineers.  I took a free on-line coding class, I read and wrote and realized I was becoming more and more unemployable.   Social media seemed appealing, so I decided to become a brand.

In April of 2014, I created a pseudonym, both tech savvy and internet friendly, named TechnyGal.  I started a blog, first on the WIX  platform and then here, on WordPress.  I opened a Twitter account and tied them to Facebook.  I purchased a few domain names Technygal.com and PinkisTheNewGreen.net  and then I started writing.

Two months later I received an email from the Washington Post Live, inviting me to a forum in Boston, I accepted.  The next day, I received another invitation to attend a 3 day conference being held in Boston, by AARP  50+ Life Reimagined.  I graciously accepted.

While seated at a Press only luncheon, I leaned over and confessed to an executive VP, that I had no idea of how I had gotten there and that I was humbled and overwhelmed.  She smiled and replied, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”  So I have…

It’s been less than a year, and I’m thinking more and more of what direction I’d like Technygal to go in, and I’m thinking it includes girls coding, selling lemonade and getting bigger slices of pie.  But like I said, I’m not sure of how I’m doing what I’m doing, there’s just this steady movement always forward.

Your suggestions are welcome…

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Big Data, facebook, gadget, Gender, Gender Equality, Internet, small business, technology, Twitter

A Girl’s Journey Into The Next Lifetime

1a glassceiling

Truth is, long before finger swipes across a touch screen, I believed that cable technology would set girls free of gender limits.   That data was without bias and that even a glass ceiling had upside.

By looking up through it, one might pause and see one’s own image, and take stock of one’s progress… where you’ve been and how much further you might go.  And that assessment in a lifetime, if not yours would propel the next woman, if not now then in the next generation.

Women think like that, with interloped arms that both link them together, and allow them to stretch and reach into the future.  In some piggyback fashion, one generation steadily improves upon the next.   That’s how Boston’s cable training program came into being, female activists who themselves had passed their prime, haggled with city officials and politicians to create opportunities for young women like myself, that we could have a chance at gender equality.

First we became linesmen, as the city needed aerial distribution cables to feed neighborhoods, using lashing machines to pull lengths of cable through easements.   If you continued training, you might become an installer and then a technician.

But there were few positions available for women and departments were limited to how many women they could hire.  I was in the service department, with only three slots available:   one female installer, one female technician and one female engineer.

The manager didn’t hesitate to mince words, literally and figuratively, “It’s out of my hands.  There’s no more to be done.”  and the worse statement of all, “Don’t make me regret the hire.”

Ironically, being a female in a traditionally male job made passersby think that they could easily do your job!  We, women were constantly reminded of just how replaceable we were.   Sometimes that was enough motivation for me to dig my steel gaffs into the meat of the city’s telephone poles, climb up, do the work and to keep my job.

But I’ve known glass ceilings.  I’ve touched them, and was somehow comforted by their coolness on my fingertips.  Back then the cable industry was in its infancy and male co-workers, less qualified than I were quickly promoted and dispatched beyond grade, a reminder of how frail my position with the company was and it had been predetermined just how successful I would be; it tapered off at 35 feet, the exact height of a telephone pole.

Not even New England’s cold winters and snow blizzards could get me to stop climbing poles.   Especially during the Spring and summer months, when active equipment would need to be upgraded and whole neighborhoods would be without cable.   It was then that people cheered to see a technician’s truck.  I’d work and get the cable back on and it was a little heroic at times, or so it seemed.

Fathers would take their daughters by the hand and walk them across the street, where they’d wait for me to climb down from the pole.  Or they’d yell up and wave; then ask if I needed water.   On quiet days, when things had slowed, I’d hang around after the job was done.   Sometimes they’d invite me to speak to small groups at the YMCA or the Boys/Girls Clubs.  It was unscripted and impromptu, like hope itself.

I’d let them touch my gaffs and run their round hands across the leather linesmen belt.  The big metal D- loop and clasp would clang noisily, and I’d smile and hold it high.  Grand posturing, like a boxer before a championship bout.

I too, had grown up in the city.  And there I stood in my linesmen boots, living proof that a city gal could climb up from poverty on a telephone pole; it seemed noble.  And they seemed to see other possibilities for themselves, if not in this generation well then surely in the next.

 

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Filed under cable, Gender, Gender Equality, tech, technology, Telecommunications, Television, Women

Readers of Code

world book 9

I like that people are reading. For a long while it seemed that people had stopped reading, but now thanks in part to social media, people are reading more, albeit snippets of information.

Still, these easy readers, Tweets, status updates and likes, have created a renewed readership, with links to blogs and articles, that have been written by real writers. Technology, it seems is getting people to read!

Once upon a time, I was an avid reader. Not voracious, but still very much on top of things. I read any genre and was always on the lookout for new writers. It seemed that I had more leisure time, and I was a fast reader, able to enjoy a quick read as well as a long casual one.

Books you see, are my friends. They stay up with me when I can’t sleep, whispering to me about new ideas, old innuendos and faraway places right here on earth. Books lean against the wall, or sit patiently on the table, stacked and ready for my retreat into them, away from reality.

I like to savor what I read. Let the words swirl around inside my head. Discover new thoughts, evoke emotions that softly touch or ruffle up against the edges of a memory. All mine. If left to my own vices, I’d sit with a nice glass of chardonnay and read a whole book; a book a day, as if it were an elixir, ah …

Unfortunately, I have fewer hours to read. But I make time to visit the library and I browse local bookstores. Because I like the way a book feels in my hands, as much as I like the smooth feel of my iPad, which replaced my 1st generation Kindle.

And in addition to that, I’ve been learning code. I’m a big advocate that all girls should learn code, and wasn’t I once a girl?

So, I signed up for an Edx course, purchased a few books and started to run programs on a computer. (And here, dear reader is where I must add a disclosure: “I’m not a computer geek, not a rocket scientist and not a genius and not a programmer.”) I’m a student in the world of variables and integers.

Anyway, yesterday I curled up with my book, my laptop and executed a C program in terminal with Gedit. It was mind-boggling, as I started to believe, that if you read it, you can understand and do it. And to that end, I’m learning.

I created a social message about girls coding in MIT’s Scratch website; it allows you to code with blocks. (For giggles, here is my project, click the green flag Girls Jump.)

I like that people are reading again. Technology it seems, does require us to think and it’s making us readers of code. And that’s a good thing.

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Big Data, Code, Coding, Gender, Girls, social media, tech, technology, Twitter, Women

Type Casting Technology

1 tech typewriter
By definition I’m a Baby Boomer. Born in the United States from 1946 to 1964; I am a by-product of that military minded society that gave birth to modern technology.

I have an affinity, a predilection and a preference for the propaganda of that era, both proud of country and invincible. If there was a way to improve the human condition, there was a genuine hope and determination and a willfulness to make it happen. And three inventions– television, the computer and the microwave made it so; they changed society.

Television that boob tube was the American dream personified. We sang television commercials as if they were the Billboard’s Top Ten: “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is,” for Alka-Seltzer and Virginia Slim’s, “To get where you’ve got to today, you’ve got your own cigarette now baby, you’ve come a long, long way.”

It began with the end to dried up leftovers, like meatloaf. That tricky dinner meant to feed a family of five on a budget of three. Goodbye cold brown brick and hello hot and juicy!

Technology has forever changed our world, Luddites have no place here. Like my old fishy typewriter; the one I found when I was eleven years old. It’s heavy and I can’t type, but I like the way it looks and smells. I also like the voice activated software that I’ve loaded onto my computer.

We Baby Boomers haven’t invented everything, but we perfected some things and we did it on a grand scale. Tablets, cellphones and a commercial space program. I’m grateful for all of that, for what we’ve achieved and for what we have and I still don’t like dried up leftovers, but I like having a choice. Et Tu?

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Filed under AARP, Apps, Baby boomers, Big Data, Gender

For Another Time

clock pandora 31
I was listening to music on the radio, when the Dee-Jay invited listeners to call in with their stories.

One young woman called in to say that she had recently lost 150 pounds. Happiness oozed from the airwaves. She said that after years of being teased and bullied; she had been plagued by obesity. And although she lived with the fear of putting the weight back on, she carried a photograph of herself, a “Self-Fattie” she called it; it was both a reminder and a deterrent.

I paused. Having grown up during the “Leave It to Beaver” Mrs. Cleaver era of stringed pearls and frilly aprons; I appreciated the caller’s honesty. I never looked like my Barbie doll and I never resembled the models in the magazines.

For many girls, growing up and not quite fitting into a “one size fits all” world is very difficult. I was moved by the discussion, but the moment didn’t last.

“We’re so happy you can fit into your skinny jeans!” the female disc jockey chuckled, then hung up from the caller.
And just like that, she cut off the stream of social consciousness.

“We’re heading into a commercial free hour of music,” she announced, and mentioned a possible rain shower.

I thought about the caller and bullying– from the schoolyards to cyber- bullying on the internet. It warranted further discussion, especially with a female disc jockey; part of a social triumphant moment. The music started and a voice sang “don’t it feel good?”

Normally, I would’ve sung along, belted out the chorus…

Perhaps, at another time.

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Filed under Baby boomers, Gender, Gender Equality, Girls, radio