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.
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
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.
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.