As a woman, I think eLearning is a great field to work in. I’ve never encountered the kinds of dramatic and persistent sexism that occurs in other technology-related fields like computer programming and video game development. Many of our best companies are managed or owned by women, and we are closer to a balanced gender ratio than many fields.
That said, we aren’t perfect, and many of the persistent gender issues that occur in the modern workforce (e.g., gender pay inequity) are just as present in eLearning as in any other field.
At DevLearn 2014, I helped organize a panel called Bridging the Gender Gap to look at some of these issues. Bill Brandon attended and suggested we collaborate to run a series on this topic in Learning Solutions Magazine.
The articles and links
I wrote the first article myself—Women in the eLearning Field: Beginning a Conversation (January 22, 2015). I was curious why the gender diversity that I knew existed in the field wasn’t being represented at some of our events. To investigate that, I looked at what was happening at the system level to influence outcomes.
Next, Koreen Pagano took a deeper look at what some of the issues are, and how they affect women in management and leadership roles in The Gender Riddle in Learning and Development (February 19, 2015).
Mark Lassoff, who has worked on helping get women and girls involved in computer programming, wrote Women in the eLearning Field: Was Your Father a Programmer? (March 19, 2015), in which he talked about the disparities in the tech fields, and his own experience witnessing gender bias.
In Women in eLearning: We're Bringing Women into Tech the Wrong Way (April 16, 2015), Aisha Taylor talked about some of the limitations of the current dialogue about women in tech. She exposed some of the limitations of how we are defining “working in technology,” and reminded us (as would other contributors) that this isn’t about women learning to be more like men, but rather about bringing our authentic selves to work.
One of the persistent issues when dealing with any group inequities is the fact that often people from that group are unfairly dubbed the representative of their whole group. For example if a woman gives a bad keynote at a conference, it gets pointed to as proof that trying to find women keynotes is a bad idea (I’ve witnessed this personally) while a man who gives a bad keynote only represents himself. In Women in eLearning: Language, Gender Equality, and Leadership (May 21, 2015), David Kelly talks about the importance of being careful with language, and how to label behaviors, not people.
In Taking Responsibility for the Gender Gap (June 18, 2015), Sam Savela cuts through the doubletalk that can occur, and challenges the oft-expressed notion that women are primarily the ones who need to change their behavior in order to redress some of the imbalances. She cites several case studies of organizations who are addressing inequities head on.
In Navigating Differences (July 21, 2015), Ellen Wagner wrote a lovely piece on recognizing the issues in the system while also being honest with yourself, and how to make sure you are owning your seat at the table.
In her article Women in eLearning: A Brave New Digital World (August 20, 2015), Lauralee Sheehan takes on the idea that “women in tech” has to be defined narrowly, and that the blend of creative and technical is part of the diversity of the field.
In one of my favorite pieces of the series, Trina Rimmer takes on the issue of diversity in our visuals in The Lack of Diversity in Stock Images Hurts Your eLearning—and What to Do About It (September 17, 2015). Trina writes a detailed, practical, and applicable piece on how to ensure you aren’t unconsciously reinforcing stereotypes in your eLearning, and how to show what real diversity looks like.
In Gender Representation in eLearning (October 22, 2015), Judy Katz expands on the question of gender representation. I was really pleased that she also addresses the inclusion of transgender people in the conversation, in what I suspect is the first discussion of that topic in Learning Solutions Magazine.
In Women in eLearning: Micro-inequities Add Up to Macro-inequities (November 19, 2015), Karl Kapp wrote a really nice and nuanced piece about how to mentor and support female students.
I’m also particularly pleased that the last piece in the series focused not on the challenges in the eLearning field, but rather on how eLearning can be part of the solution. Sahana Chattopadhyay wrote a great piece on how eLearning can help address education gaps in India in her article Re-skilling Women: Could eLearning Be the Answer? (December 17, 2015).In retrospect, I’m really glad we had the opportunity to dig deeply into a complex issue and involve so many voices in the discussion. I learned a lot from my fellow contributors. One of my favorite lessons was on the importance of inviting men into the conversation. I knew from the outset that I wanted to avoid the implication that this is only a topic for women to discuss amongst themselves (it’s not), but I was interested in how surprised (though not unwilling) some of the men were to be asked to contribute. But complex system-level challenges require system-level solutions, and that means we need to have everyone at the table for the conversation. My thanks to all the contributors, and Bill Brandon and The eLearning Guild for making this particular conversation possible.