The first encounter with the machine

For women, the first encounter with the machine is often marked by fear, as is pointed out by both male and female instructors, and confirmed by the women attending training courses interviewed during our research.

For a long time, when they talked to me about using a computer, I felt panicky: I was afraid I'd make a mess, make the whole thing collapse, make mistakes…Later on, as I frequented the course, I realised many of my fears were unfounded, really, and I felt so silly not to have tried it before (female student at CEP, Italy))

The encounter with the machine is also characterised by a lack of self-confidence, a feature often found among women who leave a family context to face the world. But the problem was found in schools as well, even where girls were unanimously considered to be 'better students' than boys. Furthermore, the definition of skills is relative. Quoting from the theoretical report, it is worth noting that:

The issue of technical competence is directly linked to that of skill. Research shows how skills are culturally defined so that for example skills acquired in specific contexts such as the domestic domain are devalued in respect of skills acquired in a formal, institutional context. This is especially relevant to the case of gender as women's skills are naturalised and therefore not recognised as such because they are often associated with women's socialisation into roles in the domestic arena (Elson and Pearson 1981).

Fear may be the reason for there being so few self-taught women in the computing world. So training courses can be very effective in helping women overcome their fear and build their self-confidence.

Training courses are useful to encourage women, stimulate their self-confidence and also reinforce and develop already available abilities.' (female instructor at Lewisham College)

Fear is also an element in men's first encounter with the computer, but it is rarely associated with a problem of self-confidence. Because technology in general is bound up with male identity, after the first steps have been taken to become acquainted with the new information technologies, men are able to establish a more relaxed and comfortable relationship with them.


Introduction

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