Girls and Gaps

Gender bias

Nick Hahn is what I call a “technology dad.” Being a techie with a lifelong fascination with all things digital, he is ideally positioned to spark his daughter’s interest in computing. Both at work and at home, Nick is on the frontlines confronting gender biases.

He shared one of his experiences with me. “When my 7-year-old daughter was just getting into Minecraft, she was excited to share her new interest with another 7-year-old girl whose family was visiting us,” Nick says. “The mom overheard our conversation as I brought my laptop out and turned the game on. She seemed surprised that I’d been showing my daughter Minecraft. It wasn’t frustration, more like confusion. Right there in front of us all, she says to her daughter: ‘Oh, honey, that game is for boys, you don’t need to bother with that.’ Then she looks at me and laughs, like I didn’t get this either, and says, ‘Why do you show this to your daughter, it’s not for her?’”

This is the nature of insidious bias.

Its invisible influence permeates our culture so deeply that it can go unrecognized until someone blurts out a jarring statement that takes you by surprise.

Games like Minecraft require players to conceptualize ideas in three-dimensional space. Whether you love Minecraft or despair over its grip on children, it does help them think like builders and develop their spatial reasoning skills. And, either way, as a genre of game and a culture that is here to stay, there are advantages to giving girls access to these sorts of games and encouragment that they are for girls just as much as they are for boys.

“I think it’s sad that many girls are discouraged from even exploring playing with computers—like because it’s not pink, it’s not for the girls,” Nick Hahn says. “If girls are told early on they’re not cut out for something, it’s hard to break that mindset.”

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences, or those of the girls in your life, with such casual, and even unacknowledged, bias. What happened? And how did you react? Thank you for sharing.

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