VIEWPOINT;HELPING WOMEN EMBRACE COMPUTERS

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One of the big problems facing our country is that women aren't interested in computer and other high-tech jobs. Advertising can play a big role to help here.

A USA Today survey turned up that only 10% to 30% of computer programming, engineering and management jobs at technology companies are filled by women.

"High-tech computer jobs overwhelmingly are held by men-an industrywide, systemic problem that begins in math class and ends with women closed out of one of the fastest growing and most important job markets of the future," the newspaper said.

Women apparently see computer jobs as nerdy; they prefer cooperative and more social tasks.

"Girls start to become more sensitive to the ways men and women act in the grownup world," Jo Thomas, a professor at the University of Washington, told USA Today. "They realize that computing is a man's thing. Even in the movies, if you see a high-tech thing, it is usually the men doing it."

Nicolette Martin, a technology manager at 3Com Corp., a computer networking company, joked to the newspaper that what's needed is a television show starring "an anorexic, beautiful software engineer. Then girls would go, `Oh, I want to do that!"'

Not a bad idea. Girls need high-tech role models, so why wouldn't it make sense for one of the female cast members of "Friends" to land a job as a computer techie (but not the one who sings dumb folk songs)? Or why not have the heroine of "Caroline in the City" do her cartoons on her home computer? And the Elaine character on "Seinfeld" should be a Web page producer, not a low-tech book editor.

Advertisers can help, too. Kmart has been showing disabled people in its TV commercials shopping at its stores, and Ikea has featured gays and multiracial couples, so it's not really so revolutionary to depict high-tech women managers taking time out for a nice steaming cup of Maxwell House coffee or for a Pepcid AC before she and her colleagues go out to a power lunch.

I think it would be beneficial to show girls that their moms have no trouble handling computers. Calgon could create a commercial of a mother printing out her daughters' hectic schedules from her laptop, then having enough time left over for a relaxing bath. Or mom could plan a family vacation on American Airlines' new interactive travel network.

But American women aren't the only ones that have problems with computers.

The Wall Street Journal reported that one of the major reasons for the Sumitomo Corp. copper-trading scandal in Japan was there weren't any computer watchdog programs in place to spot irregularities. It seems many Japanese executives consider computers "secretarial devices" and refuse to use them, the Journal stated.

The world is not taking to high tech too easily. In the U.S., women don't want much to do with computers as a career. In Japan, computers are fit only for women. The moral is that a big slice of the world still clings to what they know best-the 20th century.

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