Fujitsu 'Floral Kiss' (Photo: Fujitsu)
Fujitsu 'Floral Kiss' (Photo: Fujitsu)

There is no doubt that the number of women in science, technology and general geekery is under-represented.

As a woman who does indeed enjoy a bout of gaming and going to Star Trek conventions, I know seeing a female at these events can seem an anomaly and a flux in the time-space continuum. Among friends who work in coding, wider computer science, engineering, medicine or computer game architecture, women are few and far between.

On the other side of the coin, we see companies create "female-focused" hardware, such as Fujitsu's 'Floral Kiss' laptop, where the company's press release states that the "series [of laptops] are developed by a team of female engineers in aiming to bring elegance to PCs".

In what seems like a direct response to the "problem" of men creating products for women, Fujitsu seems to be missing the point spectacularly.

The wording, the product descriptions, such as Elegant White, Feminine Pink and Luxury Brown, make you facepalm quicker than seeing a person using Internet Explorer as their browser of choice.

But who do we blame? The makers or the buyers?

Over the years, I have seen myself or my friends summarily ostracised like a leper at school for liking what would be termed as "nerd hobbies." This can be anything from spending days and nights in playing computer games at LAN parties or huddled round a table top playing Dungeons and Dragons.

As soon as you hit adulthood, it's worn like a badge of honour, but suddenly being a nerd means that you have to adhere to some very strict rules. You can't just like computer games or technology - you've got to prove it. Repeatedly.

It's a particularly terrifying minefield if you are a girl or a woman in tech.

Suddenly, liking flowers or Hello Kitty is seen as sexist construct, just as much as liking to wear heels or make-up every day.

Cute is certainly a no-no and judging by the reaction to the Fujistu 'Floral Kiss' range, there is only what I assume is a bonfire, somewhere, burning anything that remotely is described as feminine or cute.

Now, there is a difference in the real anti- 'pink it and shrink it' - for example, entire companies that solely offer technology that is either pink, pastel or cutesy-coloured to companies offering the choice of different themes.

It's All About Choice

Using Fujitsu's latest offering as the example, the wording sucks.

Frankly, it's rather embarrassing.

But the difference is that it is a technology company that has thousands of products and it doesn't exactly display a 404 sign if you are a woman looking to buy a plain black laptop.

But we've got to look at the bottom line.

As a company, the only way to survive is to sell things that people want. It's as simple as that.

If companies like Fujitsu really miss the mark, people would not buy their "feminine" products, nor would people purchase the perennially sought after pink iPods on the market.

We may not agree, but if that's what people are parting with their cash for, then that's what would keep companies making such things.

We all moan about the tabloid industry and the rags that make billions of dollars from printing pictures of someone looking terrible in a dress or an actor that has stumbled out of rehab with a growing middle-aged spread - but they would stop printing these if people stopped buying them.

My favourite colour is black and at a stretch, navy blue or purple. My colleague, who is a rather glamorous tech writer for IBTimes UK, has a penchant for pink and regularly wears red lipstick.

Does it make her any less of a nerd?


Does her having a pink iPod mean she'll like "worse" music than me?


One of Fujitsu's 'Floral Kiss' series' custom-designed applications includes 12 daily horoscopes.

Yes, I despair, as I do rather like to base my beliefs on facts and figures rather than hokum.

However, according to respected data research poll-takers Gallup, in the US 28% of women believe in astrology and 30% of women in the UK do too. Men are comparatively much lower at 14% for Britain.

Real Focus Should Be This

We want more women in tech. That statement should be a given but the focus should get back to how we can do this.

I don't think the answer of stripping out every "girly" product on the market or making everything chrome and page will mean floods of women will suddenly start coding in C++ or Java.

By determining what women should like, is that going against the point?

Women need to be represented in technology more in companies - as a coder, designer, architect, anything.

However, unlike some industries, there needs to be a very specific skillset.

For instance, the other day I spoke with Dr Jo Twist, CEO of the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), a trade group who is pioneering some of the actual and practical ways to get women and girls into tech.

Screaming out that more women need to get into technology isn't enough, nor is setting quotas in companies. If girls are not taking the necessary qualifications from an early age, there is no way they can just enter a development position on no computer science degree.

According to the latest available statistics from the UK's Department for Education from 2010 to 2011, in London only 382 students decided to take Computing/Computer Studies at A-level, out of a total of 98,000 A-levels taken.

Specifically in the 'Tech City Corridor' of Westminster (Soho)-Camden (King's Cross)-Islington-Hackney, where it homes some of the UK's top science rather universities, advertising firms, visual effects, film, music and video games companies, only 15 students studied for a computing A-level.

The gender divide was also highlighted when the Department of Education's statistics showed that nationally only 241 girls took a computing A-level.

But as Twist pointed out: "We have always said we need a diversity of talent in the industry and to not just focus on bringing in more girls on the coding and design level, although the statistics for women taking the necessary qualifications to be a coder is very, very low."

However, UKIE is addressing this problem.

"We have managed to help the next generation of gaming industry workers develop skills at a much earlier age, bringing training into the mainstream, including successfully campaigning and installing computer science and coding classes in middle schools," said Twist.

UKIE has had success with promoting more computer science and concept design education in schools, after it issued a Call-to-Action to UK policymakers to help install greater digital literacy, IT and computer science training to pupils and teachers.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, other industry groups set up "Code Clubs", which aim to teach children as young as 10 years old, to learn the basics of computing programming and hope to roll out the session to 25 percent of Britain's primary schools by 2014.

This is the message we need to get across.

Lianna Brinded is senior business writer at IBTimes UK