By Sandra Luksic

This exhibit explores the complex transformation of gender and computer technology in the U.S. advertising industry during the mid 1960’s to the early 1980’s. 

The goal of this exhibit is to challenge the narrative that technology is a historically or inherently masculine profession. 

It uses collections from the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture to challenge the narrative that technology is a historically or inherently masculine profession. A closer look into the gender and racial dynamics of technology in the advertising industry during the 1960’s and 1980’s reveals a more complicated history.

Sections in this exhibit:

In the United States STEM fields are now dominated by white men, but that was not always the case. In the 1960’s the majority of computer scientists were (white) women. By the 1970’s nearly 25% of higher education computer science degrees were awarded to women, a number that steadily increased to 37% before sharply decreasing in 1984. Not so coincidentally, 1984 was also the year that personal computers were brought into households via advertisements to young boys. Today, women’s participation in computer science has decreased to pre-World War II numbers – barely 20%. Sexist and racist stereotypes against women’s compatibility for the STEM fields prevail, particularly for black women, Latinx women, and queer women. 

How did we get here? The answer is a combination of advertising, patriarchy, and capitalism.

This exhibit brings together a few of the major trends and technologies in the advertising industry during the post-War era as well as the wide range of feminist responses to these changes. It seeks to highlight the role that the advertising industry played in constructing and molding gender, power, and technology, emphasizing the great amount of flux and change during this time.