CFP on gender and work in rural regions: Rural Frontiers In-between Tradition and Change

Are you doing research in the field of gender and work in rural regions?

We call for contributions to a stream on gender and work in rural regions for the Gender Work and Organization conference, 24-26 June 2020 in University of Kent, Canterbury, UK.

While much of the research on gender, work, organization and entrepreneurship is conducted in urban settings, we are interested in contributions that analyse the impact of a rural context on gendered working conditions and relationships. More discussion is needed on how rural and sparsely populated regions experience the current societal changes and their impact on working lives. Intersections of gender with age, race, ethnicity, class, caste and sexuality in relation to daily life around work need to be discussed with rurality in focus.

Abstracts of approximately 500 words are invited by Friday 1st November 2019, emailed to Hilde G. Corneliussen: hgc@vestforsk.no.

Read the full CFP including required format here.

We hope to see your contribution to the stream “Rural Frontiers In-between Tradition and Change: gender, work and organization in rural contexts” (stream 8).

Stream convenors: Hilde G. Corneliussen, Radhika Gajjala, Minna Salminen-Karlsson

Follow the GWO2020 conference on Facebook: www.facebook.com/GWO2020/

Few women find role models in IT

Our article on “Women’s Experience of Role Models in IT” is now published.

Relevant role models are individuals that we can identify with. Our study among women in IT in Norway shows that:

Most women identify relevant role models among other women, rather than among men.

Few women identify role models in in fields of information technology.

Many women missed having female role models in IT.

And many found “substitute” role models from other fields, national politics or among networks of female friends.

Female role models are, as one of the women we interviewed said,

“important as a door opener. […] I think that makes things easier. It is not necessary, but it makes things easier.”

You can read the full paper (open access) here, where we present a model of responses reflecting a lack of female role models in IT:  https://www.idunn.no/modeller/18_womens_experience_of_role_models_in_it_landmark_women

Corneliussen, H. G., Seddighi, G., & Dralega, C. A. (2019). Women’s Experience of Role Models in IT: Landmark women, substitutes, and supporters. In Ø. Helgesen, E. Nesset, G. Mustafa, P. Rice, & R. Glavee-Geo (Eds.), Modeller: Universitetsforlaget. DOI: 10.18261/9788215034393-2019-18.

First and second education – routes to IT competence for women

two women smiling to each other

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

In our study of women working in technology-driven careers, primarily with IT and digitalization, we have interviewed almost 40 women in Norway. One of our findings show that many women come to work with IT and digitalization via a detour: many of them started with a “gender traditional” education, in humanities, social sciences or healthcare, but then at a later stage changed to IT, or added IT courses to their education. Our findings suggest that this “detour” is related to how girls’ choices and the advices that the young women get from parents, teachers etc., are still to a certain degree guided by gendered stereotypes and seeing IT as a male dominated field. However, when women at a later stage have to relate to IT in working life, also in traditional female dominated fields like health care, they change their view upon IT and what IT represent.

To draw some conclusions from this, first, it is important that girls are introduced early to the wide and varied meanings of IT and digitalization in current working life. Perhaps more girls will choose IT education and find IT related work attractive when it appears in pair with other fields, like ehealth, like we see among the women we have interviewed.

Our study also suggests that continuing education can be an important contribution in providing women with a competence that they to a lesser degree than men acquire through their first educational choices, as women are still a minority among IT students in Norway.

Negotiating about video games in the family – new article published

Fjordantologien 2019Our article “From helicopter parenting to co-piloting: Models for regulating video gaming among immigrant youth in Norway” is out. Thanks to the editors of the book “Modellar” (Models): Øyvind Helgesen , Richard Glavee-Geo , Ghulam Mustafa , Erik Nesset & Paula Rice! Thanks also to the publisher, Universitetsforlaget, for agreeing to make this an open access publication. And thanks to my co-authors: Carol A. DralegaGilda Seddighi, and Lin Prøitz!

The research project that this chapter reports from included interviews with immigrant families; children and parents, exploring how they dealt with the everyday challenges of balancing video games with family activities and responsibilities. Thanks to all the youth and parents who made this study possible!

Abstract

How do immigrant youth with non-western backgrounds in Norway and their families approach and negotiate video game regulation? This is the central question this chapter explores with the aim to establish sources of conflict and models for conflict resolution from a family perspective. The data collected through qualitative methods and analyzed through “discourse theory”, indicate that the most harmonious models are those that engender dialogue, trust and the participation of both parties.

Read the full chapter here

Check out the rest of the book: https://www.idunn.no/modeller

Do women need female role models in the field of IT?

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This is one of the questions we ask in Nordwit in our rural study in Norway.

Previous research is ambivalent about whether women need female role models or not in a male dominated field.

“The act of categorization does not involve a positive test”, West and Zimmerman explain, but rather an “if-can” test: ‘if people can be seen as members of relevant categories, then categorize them that way’” (1987).

Our study of women in IT work in Norway has documented that having female role models from IT had not been important for their career in IT, like one of them say: “There haven’t been anyone before us” in this field.

In a forthcoming chapter we present our findings as a model reflecting the informants’ responses in relation to the lack of female role models in IT. They rather point to an empty space where the female role models should have been: a “void” (like above, or feeling alone), or towards substitute female role models (for instance a female prime minister), or they suggest alternative supporters of both genders (for instance partners and mentors).

One of our reviewers for this chapter was eager to point out that women might not want or need female role models. Which is indeed true. But what does that really mean? That female role models are irrelevant? According to our study: no. It rather means that women in the male dominated field of IT are in danger of failing the “if-can” test – like Åsa Cajander’s post also indicates. The answer is, we suggest, not to assume that women don’t want or need female role models, but rather that when facing a professional field that is so tightly connected to the presence of men and masculine symbols, there is a “doing gender” going on in parallel with “doing IT” – and therefore it is difficult to identify female role models that reflect this profession, as women risk failing the (masculine) “doing gender” part of IT.

Which narratives do you tell on the International Women’s Day?

Happy International Women’s Day, to women all over the world!

Heading from New York Times, Febr. 13 2019: The Secret History of Women in Coding, The beatuiful image has the caption: “Mary Allen Wilkes with a LINC at M.I.T., where she was a programmer. Credit Joseph C. Towler, Jr.” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/magazine/women-coding-computer-programming.html

There are many reasons why we still need a Women’s Day and many highly important issues to solve before we get a gender equal society – also in Norway! For instance, more women than men have a higher education in Norway, but women earn in average 86% compared to men. Girls choose maths at high school as often as boys, but only 24% applying to higher IT education are women. In OECD countries, only 2% of girls, against 20% of boys, imagine themselves in a future IT career. Even though IT used to be a field where many women found interesting jobs and where they felt “at home”, this is not part of the dominating cultural discourse in 2019. Instead, women’s early participation in IT is still referred to as a “secret history”, like a recent article in New York Times illustrates (see image). I recommend this article if you are not familiar with women’s part of computing history!

One of the things we emphasise in our work to improve women’s situation in technology-driven R&I (Nordwit, FixIT), is that we tend to shape narratives by including certain things, while excluding others. In the narrative about IT and computing history, women’s contributions is not part of the mainstream story, so many aspects of the women-in-computing-part of this narrative are indeed still “secret”.

I am very proud and happy that I was asked to talk about this “secret story” today, at the local Women’s Day event.
Come, listen and discuss, if you are near Sogndal!

“I don’t mind the Gnomes, but I’m always worried about tripping over one”

This is an Elvish joke from World of Warcraft, one that “I as Another”, a Night Elf, could have told, while walking around in Azeroth doing research for our book on World of Warcraft, Digital Culture, Play, and Identity, many years ago.

… on becoming an elf in World of Warcraft, a game universe, where you first become by choosing character. I chose night elf because she looked nice and the night elves’ natureculture seemed friendly … Then you become by being told what your role is in the gameworld – to defend the home of the night elves, the children of the stars, against further corruption of evil forces, and by walking around in the elven landscape you realize that you are in fact an elf among others who greet you in elven ways with a warm “Elune-adore” and hail you into being an elf. … The world has a role for you; you walk like it and talk like it, and the character has a mission of her own, ignorant to my human self’s workload, appointments or restless dogs.

I was reminded about this when looking for some old stuff, and found this short piece. I was invited to write this in 2010 for CIAC’s Electronic Magazine, from the perspective of “I as Another” in relation to a video game avatar. And of course I did add a feminist perspective – comparing feminism and video games.

This world is not ridden by the dilemma of feminism, of women being one group or several groups. And neither is it ridden by messy identities or blurred boundaries. Instead, this is a neatly ordered world.

It wasn’t online at CIAC’s site anymore, but you can read it here

Women’s low participation in tech innovation: Can we FixIT?

After one and a half years with researching women’s tech related careers in Nordwit, we are starting to see results. In Pillar 1 we have submitted one article to review, and we have two more in production that we will submit before end of this year. One of the most exciting results we see in Norway at the moment is however that our Nordwit research has built a solid and highly valuable foundation for a new project that has been developed from our collaboration under Nordwit: the FixIT project!

FixIT is not a research project, but rather an action plan, a project to make change, more specifically, to increase women’s participation in research-based innovation. In this phase, we are targeting the innovation projects that recently received funding from the Norwegian Research Council (NRC). These projects have not reached the goal of having at least 40% women participating, and we responded to a call to increase women’s participation.

FixIT starts already in December 2018 and will go on for 14 months. Building on our Nordwit knowledge, the aim is to develop a “package” of gender balance competence that will increase the knowledge about how to work for a better gender balance in innovation projects. We are not alone in this project, but work together with actors from public and private sector as well as three networks for women in tech. (More in Norwegian here)

So yes, we are ambitious and hopeful as we aim to fix the gender balance with FixIT!

Google staff protesting the company’s treatment of women

I had the great pleasure of listening to Karen Holtzblatt at a conference earlier this year, where she challenged the audience to consider what the actual goal is, when we talk about getting more women into ICT. While the first wave feminists, she said, fought for the right to vote, and the second wave fought for the right to work – what are we fighting for or against when talking about women in ICT? It’s easy to know whether you have the right to vote or not, whether you have access to certain positions in working life or not. What exactly is it that we want for women in ICT? That people behave nice?, she asked.

The “me too” campaign and the following waves of reactions seem to have put something like that on the agenda. This week, Google employees in many countries walked out to protest at the company’s treatment of women.

BBC NEWS: Google staff walk out over women’s treatment
TWITTER/GOOGLEWALKOUT

New publication on video gaming and immigrant youth in Norway

This year has been good for publications! We have a new chapter on immigrant youth and video gaming out today, published with Emerald in Volume 16 – Media and Power in International Contexts: Perspectives on Agency and Identity, edited by: Apryl A. Williams, Ruth Tsuria, Laura Robinson, Aneka Khilnani

Chapter 7 – Manifestations and Contestations of Hegemony in Video Gaming by Immigrant Youth in Norway

by Carol Azungi Dralega and Hilde G. Corneliussen

Abstract
This chapter reports from a qualitative study on how identity categories, including gender and ethnicity, are experienced and constructed through video gaming among immigrant youth in Norway. The aim here is to explore the manifestations and contestations of gendered power and hegemonic practices among the young immigrant girls and boys. This chapter builds on research about everyday media use especially video games, and our analysis is based on theories of hegemony, power, gender, and ethnicity. Three key findings are observed from the study: (a) video games acting as a bridge between ethnic minority boys (not so much with the girls) and ethnic Norwegians, (b) hegemonic gendered practices, emphasizing the “otherness,” in particular for girls adhering to the category of gamer, and finally, to a lesser degree, (c) marginalization within video games on the basis of being a non-Western youth in a Western context. As such the study simultaneously not only confirms but also challenges dominant discourses on video games by suggesting that, although some positive strides have been made, the claims of a post-gender neutral online world, or celebrations of an inclusive and democratic online media culture, especially video gaming, are still premature.

A big thank you to Carol for her effort and for a great team!

Grappling with Paradoxes

Digitalization and new digital technology – it is not about the future, but about here and now. Almost daily we can hear in the news about how digitalization changes working life, requiring new competences of employees and new strategies for industry. ICT is not neutral, but in many cases rather operates as a new instance responsible for social, cultural, juridical or economical choices. In our new chapter, we point at the importance of questioning how digitalization is made and who are involved (read the chapter or have a look at the presentation).

The report Digital12 was recently published – written on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to explore how Norway can deal with the increasing digitalization, referred to as an “industrial revolution” that affects not only trade and industry, but also society.

The report, which explains how digital innovation will lead Norway into a prosperous digitized future, is absolutely void for reflections around the question of who it is that is involved in digitalization. Words like inclusion, diversity, gender, men/women, girls/boys do not exist in this document. As if we did not know that only about one in four are women in IT education and IT industry in Norway, and that we are below the EU average if we expand the picture to look at sciences and engineering (She Figures, see Figure 6.2); and due to slow improvement, in periods even negative change, of women’s participation, researchers have suggested that it will take several decades before we are even close to gender parity in this field in Norway (Vabø et al. 2012).

Change is dependent on politics. We have already argued that the low number of girls in programming classes in Norway is not a paradox, but a result of a policy that is gender blind! Change is also dependent on the ability to imagine that women have a place in the world of IT and digitalisation.

We certainly need stories about women in computing, a task that Sue Black has taken seriously. She is also indeed visible herself, so enjoy this video where she tells you How to find the superhero within you!

ICT Changes Everything! But Who Changes ICT?

Last week at the IFIP TC9 Human Choice and Computing conference in Poznan with the title “This Changes Everything” – to present our paper – me, Radhika Gajjala and Clem Herman, with the title “ICT Changes Everything! But Who Changes ICT?”

Abstract below or look for the full text here.

Information and communication technology (ICT) has a changing power and digitalization is gradually changing society in all aspects of life. Across the western world, men are in majority in the ICT industry, thus, the computer programs that change “everything” are most often made by men. Unless questioned, this male dominance can be perceived as a “norm” and becomes invisible. Against this background, this paper will provide three examples of how a feminist gaze can contribute to raise important questions and produce an awareness of how exclusion mechanisms have produce a highly homosocial tendency in design of ICT systems in the western world.

The three cases illustrate how a feminist gaze leading to feminist interventions can make a difference in various ways. The first author presents a case study of a pilot for involving programming in public education in secondary schools in Norway, where a complete lack of gender awareness makes this an offer for boys in most schools. Author two presents a case study comparing the situation in the IT business in the UK and India, finding challenges not only to the situation in the western world, but also to white western feminism. Author three discusses alternatives ways of involving women in ICT work, through practices of feminist pedagogy, emphasizing hands-on work.

Author price for our new chapter on Immigrant youth and gaming

We were surprised with a very nice price last week: the author price for Fjordkonferansen. for our contribution to this year’s anthology – based on last year’s conference:

Kapittel 11: Gaming and identity construction among immigrant youth in Norway — Convergent glocal contexts, by Carol Azungi Dralega og Hilde G. Corneliussen

Molde University College posted a very nice piece about us – here. The photo is from the conference last year.

Read the full paper – open access – here.

Abstract:

This study explores how immigrant youth in Norway navigate video games between local and global contexts and how this shapes their identities. Drawing from theories of transnationalism, gender and technology, the study employs qualitative methodologies that unravel complex identity manifestations that are globally connected but locally anchored. Rather than an often-used dual frame of reference, the authors suggest interpreting this through a multiple frame of reference.

 

“A wasted opportunity for inclusion” – new publication on programming in school

Our new article (with Fay Tveranger) is out, online, open access for anyone to read!

  • Hilde G. Corneliussen and Fay Tveranger. 2018. Programming in secondary schools in Norway – a wasted opportunity for inclusion. In Proceedings of Gender&IT’18, Heilbronn, Germany, May 2018 (Gender&IT’18), ACM, New York, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3196839.3196867

It will be presented tomorrow at the so far brilliant Gender & IT 2018 conference. For those of you who won’t be there, here’s the abstract, and then go and read the whole thing here: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=3196839.3196867

This paper discusses a pilot introducing programming as anelective in Norwegian secondary schools. Computing is a male dominated field, in Norway as in other European and Western countries. Despite the male dominance in the field, there were no gender inclusion or diversity measures included in the pilot . Theresult is an elective heavily dominated by boys and a wasted chance of attracting girls to computing.

 

What has women and technology to do with programming for children?

I had the great pleasure of talking for the regional conference “Næringsdagane” – the Business Days – 2018 for Sogn & Fjordane, at beautiful Kviknes hotel in Balestrand in beginning of May. One of the main topics of the conference was digitalisation across all sectors in society, and I was asked to talk about “women and technology” and to provide some answers to why there are so few women in IT education and occupations. The widespread digitalisation, after all, requires us to recruit from the entire population.

With my presentation titled “Programming and IT – who would have thought that would become a field for men?” I wanted to show that if we look back in time, there is an alternative story about women and technology, of “forgotten” female role models, including Ada Lovelace, Human Computers, the “ENIAC women”, and Grace Murray Hopper. Many women worked as programmers in the software business during the 1950s and 60s, and they did not think of programming as a field for men, as these quotes from Janet Abbate’s book Recoding Gender. Women’s Changing Participation in Computing from 2012 illustrate:

I was hired a programmer … It was something that women were believed to be good at

It really amazed me that these men were programmers, because I thought it was women’s work!

It never occurred to any of us that computer programming would eventually become something that was thought of as a men’s field

These images of women as suitable programmers, and programming as a suitable occupation for women, have since disappeared. The result is that we lack the vital images and good role models for girls and women to associate with in the field of IT.

In our work with Pillar 1 in NORDWIT we have interviewed women in technology related careers, and they illustrate how the lack of role models is still a challenge. When we asked about role models, one of the young women coming straight out of her master’s study said:

There were several IT companies visiting our class, but they were mostly men. It would have been more appealing and recognisable with a woman.

Another women told us:

I haven’t had any role models that… Because often there haven’t been anyone before us, in a way.

The low proportion of women is reflected in schools, with a low percentage of girls participating in the national pilot for programming in secondary school. “It’s hard to be what you cannot see”, Robin Hauser Reynolds has pointed out in an interview in USA Today. The campaign “#I-look-like-an-engineer” started after Isis Anchalee, featuring on an ad as an engineer, received a lot of attention in social media with comments doubting that she was a real engineer, suggesting she was rather a model hired to make the ad look good. History repeats itself, as the ENIAC women were also once interpreted that way – as “just refrigerator ladies posed in front of the machine to make it look good”.

How can we expect girls to choose programming at school facing a culture where even women who have chosen to work with IT can’t point at female role models, and where women who could have been role models are being distrusted as professionals?

Things obviously need to change!

It is possible to change this?
Yes!

Why?
Because history shows that today’s male dominance is not a given necessity, but a cultural construction.

How can we change it?
There is no quick fix, but still plenty of room for improvement:

  • Don’t accept that “girls just aren’t interested”. Culture shapes interest!
  • Be aware how you contribute to the image of IT. You are part of culture – make space for girls in IT.
  • Be willing to change and always ask questions: What did we do to include girls? How can we change things to include more girls?

(This post was originally written for and posted to the Nordwit blog)