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Smartphone Addiction is Not a Gender-Specific Problem

An open letter to David Benjamin, EE Times


Dear David,


You really don’t get it.


Why? Why, when more women are joining the microelectronics industry in technical and non-technical roles, would you resort to female stereotypes from the 1950s as a vehicle to discuss such an important topic as global smartphone addiction? And if you ARE going to resort to stereotypes, why not mention technology “advancements” that seemingly have young boys and adult men so captivated by their handheld devices.


It’s no wonder that after reading your recent blog post, “”, we asked each other, “Who IS this guy? and why is he writing for EE Times? Unfortunately, your misogynistic and misguided attempt at humor dilutes your otherwise important message. While some may find your analogies harmless and funny, it’s microaggressions like this that make it difficult for women to command the respect they deserve from their industry colleagues. It’s death by 1000 paper cuts.


For example, why do you assume the women you “observed” on the train aren’t engaging in important matters? Maybe the woman you saw typing madly on her phone is an award-winning technology journalist who is using her commute to catch up on email or research her next article. And maybe the one listening to her device is the CEO of a tech startup, and she’s tuned in to a virtual conference session she didn’t have time to attend in real-time.


And why do you assume that what those teenage girls spent hours on the phone discussing had no value?


As former teenage girls ourselves, we know those phone hours were critical to our social development. They helped us become the intelligent and inciteful adults we are today. We talked about everything from algebra homework and book reports to racial injustice and gender bias. We also supported each other through personal crises. And we still do. The SemiSisters meet every month in person, when possible, and on Zoom when it’s not.


You won’t get an argument from us that the global addiction to our handheld devices is a concern, and that it may be impacting the next generation’s ability to communicate effectively. But teenage girls talking on the phone was the wrong analogy to make. Considering the body of research on the topic, stereotyping gender-based attitudes to social media or phone use is naïve and simplistic. Young women have a lot more substance than you think and will grow up to make the world a better place.


Instead, why not address the real culprits – that are capitalizing on psychology to manipulate consumers through carefully crafted algorithms. Or what about a corporate culture that dictates we stay chained to our work 24/7 thanks to the existence of handheld devices?


Ironically, it is more likely that the transition from the voice-only capabilities of Peg, Jeannie, and Beth’s telephony, to today’s texting and instant messaging is what effected this change in human interaction.


Our global use of these technologies is as much driven by need than by preference. Just look how video conferencing has become a lifeline during the pandemic. Slowly, we seem to be returning to face-to-face interaction. We are hopeful.


In closing, it’s time to face reality David, (and EE Times): your audience is no longer just a bunch of old white guys yukking it up on the golf course. Those days are over. We enjoy a good joke as much as the next person, but this just wasn’t funny.


Sincerely,


The SemiSisters:


Françoise von Trapp


Julia Goldstein


Emerald Greig


Joanne Itow


Heidi Hoffman


Margaret Kindling


Grace Koo


Lori McDonald


Laura Peters


Anne Vanhoestenberghe


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