By Abbie Willans
The field of communication, information, and media has long been a male-dominated world, but some folks at Ball State’s Digital Corps are hopeful that soon it no longer will be.
Seniors Jordan Johnson and Rachel Scott both work on graphic design and illustrations for the Digital Corps. Digital Corps is a paid program at Ball State that works with actual clients to create video games, applications, programs, videos, and other things that involve emerging technology. They believe that the work they do is judged on their ability and not on their appearance.
“As a person in the arts, traditionally we’re taught how men shaped the world and the artistic movements through history, rarely shown any woman who had made an impact,” Johnson said. “Coming into college with a desire to make art my lifestyle, I did feel like I had to ‘prove’ that I was as capable as any of the other students, if not more so.”
Scott hopes to design characters and concept art for film and television, but is afraid that she won’t be taken seriously if she designs too many feminine characters, something she has actually been told before.
“I’m concerned that the correlation between girl characters or feminine scenes or drawings and the fact that I am a girl might keep some studios from being interested in me,” Scott added. “I like to think that the fact that I am a girl wouldn’t be a deciding factor in and of itself, but it makes me feel like I need to be more careful about what I draw and what I show people.”
While most criticism that Johnson received about her career choice was centered on a lack of understanding for how an artist makes a living, Scott was questioned for not becoming a traditional painter or even an art teacher.
Director of Content and Collaboration Brandon Smith said that when hiring new students, he wants them to be excited about technology and learning more about their field. The difference in pay is based on their level of experience: apprentice, specialist, and master.
“It doesn’t matter what you look like, what your gender or sexuality is or where you’re from, if you’re passionate about this, that’s what we’re looking for. That’s great.” Smith said.
Smith noticed that the number of females in Digital Corps has grown over the past few years. Of the 13 new applicants who joined this semester, seven of them were female. How does this compare to the job market for women in technology today? According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, only 1.5 percent of all open source software developers are female.
NCWIT also showed that women in technology quit at a higher percentage than in other science fields. What could be the reasoning behind this?
Apprentice developer Jessica Lohse, who works on applications and coding, has noticed in some of her classes that there are lowered expectations for female students. “Professors almost always ask the girls if they need help first, even when there might be some guys who are actually struggling more. If there were 10 girls in the program, the teachers only expect maybe one or two to stick around until graduation,” she stated.
Lohse first got into computer science when she was younger. Her grandfather taught computer classes and he encouraged her to pursue her talents as a career. She does not think she would have considered it as a serious option if not for her grandfather’s guidance. She also believes that there would be more people, girls especially, who would be interested in computers if they were directed toward it at an early age. The NCWIT noted that 56 percent of high school students having taken no computer courses were girls.
This is not something that would only be beneficial to women, however. NCWIT discovered that of more than 100 teams at 21 companies, teams with balanced genders were more experimental and more efficient. This could be good news for Digital Corps since more than half their new recruits are females. Could this mean Ball State is ahead of the curve in the industry, or could this be pointing towards a more equal field in the future?
All three students agree that while there may be a stigma towards women in the industry, the influence is not nearly as bad as it used to be. Smith hopes that it won’t be a problem by the time his 3-year-old daughter enters the work force, “If she comes home and tells me she wants to be a computer programmer, great!”