How women can take back tech.
It is clear that technology is no natural force advancing in whichever direction it pleases, but that it is driven by the very people who create it: overwhelmingly men in the Global North. It is unsurprising, then, that technology tends to reflect their experiences and serve their interests. The efforts of women from within and beyond the sector have drawn attention to this problem: Timnit Gebru, Joy Buolamwini, Caroline Criado Perez, Ellen Pao.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon certainly ranks among them. A computer scientist and former child prodigy, she founded Stemettes in 2013: a social enterprise supporting under-represented groups in STEM, especially young women.
In ‘She’s in CTRL’ (Bantam Press, £16.99, ISBN: 9781787635029), Imafidon makes the case that the tech world should not be considered exclusive and out of reach, and that women must get in the rooms where the big decisions are made, or – better still – create their own.
She’s in CTRL is structured as a guide for ‘taking CTRL’ (a phrase that begins to grate quite quickly), with chapters on subjects such as gatekeeping, choosing to engage, and finding your voice in tech. At the end of each chapter is a set of practical tips for taking CTRL. These are extremely useful, frequently pointing the reader to specific resources for everything from learning to finding a community.
Imafidon assumes no prior knowledge or understanding on the reader’s part, explaining the very basics, such as the necessity of digital literacy – “A certain level of digital literacy is necessary to get along in life,” she explains. This is redundant for Imafidon’s core audience of technologically engaged young women, but perhaps that is no shortcoming for ‘She’s in CTRL’, which primarily aims to teach, convince, and encourage people not already engaged with tech.
Some of the later chapters, however, such as ‘Holding tech accountable’, would benefit any reader, and would hold up well as standalone essays.
The book is filled with genuinely inspiring stories about current women pioneers in tech in a welcome change from the stories of Lady Lovelace, Marie Curie and the other usual suspects. The women whose stories are presented are no celebrities, but they are all changemakers of the sort that young people could aspire to become: people like Abadesi Osunsade, CEO of Hustle Crew, which helps tech companies hire from a diverse pool of expertise; and Professor Noémie Elhadad, who created an app for patients to contribute to endometriosis research by sharing their lived experience. Imafidon also writes with charm about her own experiences, starting with exploring the early internet and the devices around her home, up to her principle-based founding of Stemettes.
‘She’s in CTRL’ has a very broad scope; there are perhaps three books in here jostling for focus. On the whole, however, it is an ultra-accessible book which makes an effective case for tech literacy and engagement for all. It will have the greatest impact among readers not already engaged with the tech world, and would make a good gift for a young daughter – or indeed an elderly mother.
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