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Girls' Software Now Readily Available; Clinton Pledges to Increase Diversity in Scientific, Technological Workforce

After a long drought, a significant number of software developers are finally developing their products with girls in mine, although few can be deemed "feminist" in design. The New York Times reported that there will be 65 titles for girls available by year's end.

Much of the best-selling software is feminine in only a shallow, stereotypical manner. For instance, almost one-half of the twenty best selling titles feature Mattel's Barbie doll. Another popular product, Polaroid's "Photomaxine" is a photograph manipulation program that allows girls to scan pictures of their own faces onto another woman's images. Unfortunately, too many of the images portray women in traditional roles as brides, cheerleaders, waitresses, and models.

Feminist-led software companies such as Purple Moon are somewhat less stereotypical. Purple Moon co-founder Brenda Laurel described the difficulty of communicating a feminist message while still making a profit. "You can't change the world by producing something that [only] 200 kids play with," said Laurel. "You've got to try to do something that's pervasive enough and in-tune enough with popular culture that you get your foot in the door."

Jo Sanders, director of Washington Research Institute's Center for Gender Equity, said that the stereotypically feminine nature of most girls' computer games will likely remain until overall societal change occurs. "Because computers were such a new medium, we thought that they wouldn't carry the traditional baggages, that they would be more gender-neutral," said Sanders. "It turns out you can't pull computer software out of the society any more than you can pull television programs or magazines."

In another related story, President Clinton announced yesterday that he has ordered his National Science and Technology Council to develop a plan for increasing the number of women and minorities in the technological and scientific workforce. In a ceremony honoring recipients of the 1998 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, President Clinton said that increasing participation of women in minorities in scientific and technical fields is "crucial to fulfilling a national promise of economic prosperity for all citizens."

Media Resources: U.S. Newswire - September 10, 1998



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