Developing Feminist Technologists
Computing has a history of perpetuating injustices, a pattern that has only seemed to grow worse over recent years. These injustices are a direct result of computing's epistemic values and practices, which suggests the need for computing to adopt alternative epistemic values and practices, including sociopolitical awareness, reflexivity, humility, and an explicit commitment to justice. These are the central values of feminism, but while scholars have developed theories about how feminist values could reshape computing, there is a need for more research into how to practically integrate feminist values into computing practice. Additionally, given that computing education reinforces and reproduces the dominant computing culture, there is a need for further research to imagine how computing education could be transformed to teach developing technologists how to integrate feminist values into this practice. I conducted a small-sample, in-depth interview-based study to understand the experiences of people who are developing into or practicing as feminist technologists. Through my research, I identified six common characteristics of feminist technologists, including a commitment to care, awareness of power structures, practice of epistemic humility, application of systems thinking, and negotiation with the tensions in integrating feminist values. I also identified two common types of experiences that help develop people into feminist technologists: experiences that foster feminist consciousness-raising and experiences that positively model feminist values. These insights suggest alternative ways of understanding the development of feminist technologists as a continuous process, where being and becoming a feminist technologist is one and the same, that requires a foundation of emotional safety.