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Sony's Scholarship for Girl Game Developers

Nice news for young women looking to break into the video game industry:

The SOE G.I.R.L (Gamers in Real Life) Scholarship is a progressive new scholarship program designed to educate and recruit more women into the video game industry. The goal of the G.I.R.L Scholarship is to give a student a unique opportunity-to get their foot in the door with a paid internship at one of the SOE studios, plus $10,000 towards tuition at The Art Institutes.

(Via Netwomen.)

Alpha Girls

Harvard Magazine takes a look at Dan Kindlon's book, Alpha Girls: Understanding the New American Girl and How She Is Changing the World:

What girls are saying, adds Kindlon, is, "I have flexibility that no other woman has ever had in history, or certainly not in any numbers, and I can play any role—'Bring it on.'" As one "hybrid" alpha (now at Harvard) told him, "I can wear high heels to my linear algebra class. I can be sexy or I can be feminine, or I can also blow the boys away in this really tough class. I can do anything. I don’t see it as inconsistent to be wearing high heels. I don’t feel like I’ve got to dress down or dress like a man to do this class. I can still be a woman and do all these other things."

Toddlers & Computers

Here's my personal recommendation to all parents, aunts/uncles, educators, etc. who might possibly consider buying one of those cute play laptops for toddlers in their lives this holiday season: don't.

Even if I haven't already long been of the opinion we adults generally underestimate what children are capable of understanding, it's a fact that kids today are incredibly technologically sophisticated. Chances are, they, even at age three, are used to seeing the adults around them with notebook computers, smart phones, PDA's and other gadgets. They'll know and resent it if you try to give them fake versions of these, which is exactly what this NY Times article (via Marginal Revolution) says.

Instead of toys, I suggest giving them a go on a real computer. It doesn't have to be fancy - you can get one for cheap or maybe even free on Craigslist or Freecycle. But considering a how huge a role computers and technology are going to play in the lives of the next generation, doesn't encouraging them to learn and experiment with the real thing make sense?

If you're worried about damage to the computer (even if it is a cheap or free one), there are programs like AlphaBaby and BabySplat that let babies and toddlers have fun pounding on keyboards without hurting files, and also PixelWhimsy, which is slightly more advanced, but still allows a comfortable platform for children to understand how computer input works. There's also Toddler Keys, which disables all the potentially dangerous keys and gives kids free rein on the others. All of those are free downloads, by the way, the first one for Mac and the others for Windows. There are also scores of worthwhile educational games (take the little one to the Apple Store to test drive some for free, or try the library), and websites toddlers can participate in with a little help.

You don't need the fake, expensive toys that you'll have no use for in a few years. The kids in your life are good enough for the real thing.

A Portrait of the Developer as a Young Woman

On the heels of my post about female technology stereotypes, it occurs to me I have more to say about the issue - namely, why I care about it so much in the first place.

The simple fact of why I'm so interested in girls' education in technology and related fields is that I wish I had had a better one myself. I think that I fell victim to a lot of the same problems that we discuss plaguing girls now: lack of role models, low self-confidence, and feeling uncomfortable about what I felt I was supposed and not supposed to be doing. Even after I made the decision to pursue computer science (over two years into college), it was an uphill battle. There were very few women I could look up to, or even talk to about it. As I began to work and gain experience in IT, I worked with women, but most had largely come into the field from the administrative sector, not the technical side. As far as technicians went, it was always a group dominated by males. It's hard to find one's footing, and discover what one's true talents are, with so few points of reference. More often, I got asked why I wanted to be there in the first place, rather than help and support. Many times, I felt the message was I just didn't belong there and that I should give up trying to.

My interests prior to studying CS had always been (and still are, in part) the more female-friendly areas of art and English. But when I became fascinated with technology, I wanted to learn about how to use it as profoundly as I could. I tried to create ways to connect and combine the two, which has been easily done when it comes to web design and development. In fact, to this day, in every professional position I've held, I was told my creativity was something my employers valued, because it was rare to find in the technical field, and it added an unique aspect to my technical work. However, I've also been told, for presumably the same reasons, that I'm not the "type" to work in tech.

But people aren't types. They're individuals. There's no reason or need to place them all in little boxes or neat, unbreakable compartments. I think there should be much more fluidity between science and art, creativity and logic, minorities and majorities, men and women. My insistence on education and encouragement for those who aren't receiving it comes directly from my own experience of not receiving it myself. Even now solidly placed on my career path and moving ahead, I still sometimes feel I have to catch up. I'm still generally the only female in my workplaces, and I still have it pointed it out me. Sometimes I wonder how much farther I would be if I had had more support in this line of work. But mostly I just focus on providing it to other girls. Because no matter how loudly the media is yelling about the failures of the spoiled, useless young women who clog our popular culture, or how hard it pushes the male geek stereotype, or how strongly it insists women just naturally have different skillsets - I want girls to know the truth.