A continuous under-representation of women in ICT has been the focus of research in Nordic as well as other western countries. A recurring question has been: how can we recruit more women to ICT? Answering this question, however, requires knowledge about what make women enter fields of ICT.
Our study of women who have already chosen a career in various fields of ICT and digitalization has shown that many women have not followed a ‘conventional’ route to ICT, that is: making the “right choices” at high school and moving on to ICT at university level. Rather, most of the 28 women we interviewed in a case study in Norway had found other, less conventional routes to ICT:
Some of the women had already started on a non-tech university degree, before changing direction or returning to university for a second degree in ICT;
some of the women had gradually moved towards ICT through the increasing digitalization of their original non-tech discipline or field;
and some of the women had found work opportunities within projects and companies focusing on digitalization and ICT innovation because their non-tech competences were needed.
The routes that the women have followed, and the consequences of their movements and changing directions, are not fully reflected in publicly available statistics. There are gaps, for instance, in identifying ICT as a second degree after a change of educational direction, thus also women’s double education/competence background when entering IT work remains invisible, and the same goes for the pattern of women with a non-tech education entering vital positions in IT and core fields of digitalization.
The Nordwit research thus suggests that improvements are needed in statistics about women’s participation in ICT-driven work, and here are some examples:
We need to develop statistical models that enable accurate capture of new forms of working, circuitous routes into ICT and technologized fields, and movement across jobs;
Make it a routine to have systematic entry and exit interviews when people start/leave jobs (for instance to identify how women’s career/work paths are gendered);
Gender equality statistics, as illustrated by the Nordwit research, should be informed by qualitative research findings, suggesting also that national offices of statistics could benefit from collaborating with researchers in the field.
Target groups for the advices are not only the national offices of statistics, but also ministries, EC, trans/national bodies (e.g. OECD, governmental labour surveys), trades unions, employer-employee forums, private research organizations, and NGOs.
Read more about these topics from the Nordwit research:
Simonsen, M., & Corneliussen, H. G. (2020). What Can Statistics Tell About the Gender Divide in ICT? Tracing Men and Women’s Participation in the ICT Sector Through Numbers. In D. Kreps, T. Komukai, G. TV, & K. Ishii (Eds.), Human-Centric Computing in a Data Driven Society (379-397). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
To be published during the spring of 2022: Unconventional routes into ICT work: Learning from women’s own solutions for working around gendered barriers, by Corneliussen & Seddighi, to be published in a book edited by Gabriele Griffin: Gender Inequalities in Tech-Driven Research and innovation: Living the Contradiction.
Nearly five years since we started the work in NORDWIT, the Nordic Centre of Excellence on women in tech-driven careers. Now five years later, we have a lot of new research and findings, some of which will be presented in the final conference:
Welcome to the Nordwit final conference, 10–11 February 2022 Challenging the Nordic Gender Paradox: Gender in the Nordic Research and Innovation Area
The program is very exciting, with Nordwit researchers, the scientific advisory group, Nordforsk, and presentations by the ‘sister’ NCoE NORDICORE.
It seems like the Covid situation will make the whole thing go online.
Det vanskelige ekteskapet mellom teknologi og omsorg
Les mer om vår diskusjon av ny teknologi som redskap for innovasjon i omsorg og en teknologireduserende diskurs som redskap for å ‘lirke inn’ teknologien i Tidsskrift for omsorgsforskning
Corneliussen, Hilde G. og Kari Dyb 2021. “Det vanskelige ekteskapet mellom teknologi og omsorg”, Tidsskrift for omsorgsforskning, 7 (3): 1-5. DOI: https://doi.org/10.18261/issn.2387-5984-2021-03-11.
We have yet another publication in Feminist Encounters this month: “The Illusion of Balance: Women in ICT Working Full-Time and Still Having a Feeling of Opting Out”, with my colleague Gilda Seddighi as the lead author
Women – mothers in particular – working as ICT experts in research, development, and innovation are under double pressure: they work within both a male-dominated profession, and a greedy, 24/7 work style that continues to produce an image of the ideal worker according to the male norm of less childcare responsibility. This study explores how women working as ICT experts in research, development, and innovation in Norway’s gender egalitarian culture negotiate work alongside family responsibilities. We discuss which factors affect women’s experiences of combining ICT work and family, building our analysis on 22 interviews conducted with women ICT experts in research, development, and innovation in Norway during 2017-2018. Our study illustrates that insufficient public childcare and work-life balance solutions cause women to feel like they are ‘opting out’, even when working full-time. This suggests that some of the main structures of working life continue to work as barriers to women’s career opportunities. Indeed, while some women narrate their encounters with such structures along the lines of traditional gendered patterns of work and family, we also found the same structures being gendered in new ways.
Reference: Seddighi, Gilda, and Hilde G. Corneliussen. “The Illusion of Balance: Women in ICT Working Full-Time and Still Having a Feeling of Opting Out”. Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics 2021 5 no. 2 (2021): 26. https://doi.org/10.20897/femenc/11163
I have two new publications from Nordwit this month, one is “Unpacking the Nordic Gender Equality Paradox in ICT Research and Innovation”, where I discuss the mismatch between seeing the Nordic countries as highly gender egalitarian and the continuous under-representation of women in technology.
Abstract Most fields of technology-driven research and innovation are highly male-dominated across the Western world. However, in the Nordic countries, recognised as the most gender equal in the world, this gender segregation appears as a paradox. With Norway as an example, the present article explores the paradox that appears to be entangled with the yet unsolved question of why women are still a minority in information and communication technology (ICT) disciplines. The analysis draws examples from five studies of girls and women in contexts of ICT training, education, and work to analyse the fabric of the paradox through the ‘free choice’ argument, ‘affluent nations’ argument, and ‘nation vs. individual women’ argument. The analysis suggests that the paradox, by putting the nation’s gender equality ideal against atomized individuals’ choices, contributes to obscuring the situation regarding the underrepresentation of women in ICT.
Reference: Corneliussen, Hilde G.. “Unpacking the Nordic Gender Equality Paradox in ICT Research and Innovation”. Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics 2021 5 no. 2 (2021): 25. https://doi.org/10.20897/femenc/11162
What leads women to information technology (IT)? Successful recruitment is often perceived as relying on interest in IT. This study, however, identifies the pathways bringing women to IT that only partly rely on interest in IT and also involve other factors. In-depth interviews with 24 women in IT education and early research positions in Norway provide the empirical material for this qualitative study. Feminist technology studies and research on gender and technology provide a framework for the study, and the analysis is guided by the grounded theory method. The findings show that IT is a highly gendered field in Norway and that gender stereotypes affect women’s expectations toward, and choices of, IT. Women enter the fields of IT despite stereotypes. However, for many such women, this follows a coincidence or a late discovery of IT as interesting, and some women have been on a “penalty round” in a different field before finally entering the fields of IT.
Women’s underrepresentation in fields of information and communication technology (ICT) appears as a paradox in the context of Norway, a country that scores high on international gender equality indicators. Earlier research has argued that women’s underrepresentation in ICT education might be a result of their lack of interest in ICT. In this paper we ask what motivates young women in Norway to enter technology studies. The analysis is based on a quantitative survey with 689 young women responding to questions about what had made them choose technology in high school or at university level. The results show that leading factors motivating the women are job opportunities, high salary and using technology for solving challenges. Interestingly, factors that are associated with boys’ and men’s interest in ICT such as computer games and leisure activities, are marginal as motivation for the women. The study thus confirms that young women are highly interested in fields of technology, however, their interests differ from what is often associated with young men. Based on the findings we suggest that measures recognising a wider image of technology are needed for motivating women to enter fields of technology.
It’s open access, so you can download and read all of it online! 🙂
(From the introduction)
The study includes interviews with 24 women in Norway currently studying or holding academic recruitment or research positions at faculties of technology and science. In a previous analysis from this study we have documented that the women did not feel invited or encouraged to choose an ICT education, and their lack of knowledge about ICT in the transition between lower and higher education sends nearly half the group into a “penalty loop” – starting with another degree before “discovering” ICT, and subsequently starting all over again with an ICT degree (Corneliussen, 2020). This chapter analyses how these women, once they have entered ICT, find ways of empowering themselves in a field that they initially experienced as not very welcoming to women, asking how they succeed in establishing their own sense of belonging in the field of ICT. The analysis explores how women negotiate to perceive themselves as fitting into the male-dominated field of ICT. In this process they mainly have to rely on their own efforts – their self-empowerment, employing strategies and practices for making women visible as they strive to identify ICT as a field where women, too, belong.
Corneliussen, H. G. (2021). Women empowering themselves to fit in ICT. In E. Lechman (Ed.), Technology and Women’s Empowerment (46-62). London: Routledge.
Today I had the great pleasure of speaking for OSCE https://www.osce.org/ at a conference in Vienna/Zoom, where I was one of the speakers invited to talk about women’s empowerment and the digital transformation. It was a short talk for many distinguished speakers, ambassadors, and representatives from the OSCE member states, some of which responded and asked questions.
Below you can read my talk for the OSCE on 5 July 2021, at the High-Level Conference Promoting Economic and Environmental Co-operation, Security, and Growth in the OSCE Region: Marking 30 years of the 1990 Bonn Document. In this version I have added references to show the connections to our research.
(And I have finally a new profile photo, as it is many years now since my hair was short and had other colour(s) :D)
More than 600 researchers together for 3 days for the Gender, Work, and Organization conference, GWO 2021. This was an online and delayed version of the GWO 2020 conference, which should have been in Kent, UK.
There were nearly 40 streams of different topics at the conference; on professional careers, entrepreneurship, identities, discrimination, theory and a long list of other topics!
Minna Salminen-Karlsson and I organised a stream together with the title “Rural Frontiers In-Between Tradition and Change: GWO in rural contexts”.
This was our first dip into the rural in a GWO perspective, and we really enjoyed the fantastic papers from across the world, including Australia, the Netherlands, Mexico, the UK, Italy, New Zealand, the Solomon Island as well as from Norway and Sweden. After so long time of no travelling, it was wonderful to get those deep dives into these diverse cultures, as a next-best to travelling ourselves!
Thank you to everybody who participated in the rural stream! And a big thank you to the organisers of the GWO 2021 conference. It was amazing to share these three days with so many researchers!
Although I hope we will have the opportunity to have face-to-face conferences again, we certainly see the potential of digital conferences for including people from every corner of the world.
Hjemmekontor som problem: Pandemien gir et mer utydelig skille mellom arbeid og fritid. Det kan skade likestillingen. Pandemien har gjort grensen mellom fritid og arbeidstid enda mer utydelig, og mange lurer på hvordan dette påvirker arbeidslivet. Svaret kan vi kanskje finne i bransjer som IT
Foto fra Nationen, Faglig snakka 5. mai 2021
Les kronikken av Gilda Seddighi og meg selv i Nationen i dag – om utfordringer med å balansere familie og karriere .. utfordringer som ikke har blitt mindre under pandemien
Studies of young people’s motivation to pursue a career in technology have often focused on when and how interest intechnology develops. Many teenagers lose interest in science and technology, and because his affects girls more than boys, it leaves a short gap to capture girls’ interest, it has been argued. Many initiatives to increase girls’ interest have been designed based on images of boys’ interest in video gaming and programming. The problem is that this type of interest is also gendered.
We are in the process of concluding a survey among girls in Norway with nearly 700 respondents who were studying science and technology at high schools and universities.
What has been the most important motivation for your choice of studying in science and technology?
When we asked the girls this question, the top 9 motivating factors were all related to working life and society:
93% agreed that exciting job opportunities in technology was an important motivation
80% were strongly motivated by the possibility of using technology for solving social issues.
In the opposite end of the scale we found activities associated with boys:
less than 5% of the girls have been motivated through after-school/leisure time activities involving technology
less than 14% found video games motivating for choosing technology at high school or university.
These findings support our previous empirical research finding that many girls are motivated by other things than technology when they enter tech education.
The report (in Norwegian) will be out soon, for those who want to read more!
Corneliussen, H.G. (2020) “Dette har jeg aldri gjort før, så dette er jeg sikkert skikkelig flink på” – Rapport om kvinner i IKT og IKT-sikkerhet, Sogndal: VF-rapport 8/2020. Corneliussen, H.G. (2020) ‘What Brings Women to Cybersecurity? A Qualitative Study of Women’s Pathways to Cybersecurity in Norway’ European Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity Conference (Eicc 2020).
Talks, I., Edvinsson, I., & Birchall, J. (2019). Programmed Out: The gender gap in technology in Scandinavia. Oslo: Plan International Norway.
McKinsey & Company and Pivotal Ventures. (2018). Rebooting representation – using CSR and philanthropy to close the gender gap in tech. https://www.rebootrepresentation.org/report-highlights/: Tech Report 2018 [Accessed March 2021].
Microsoft Corporation. (2017). Why Europe’s Girls Aren’t Studying STEM. – Microsoft Philanthropies.
This was the question I tried to answer at the European Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity Conference two weeks ago. Summing up a case study where we compare women in cybersecurity with women in other IT disciplines, I talked about which similarities and differences we found between the two groups. The study is based on 24 in-depth interviews with women studying or holding PhD, Postdoc or early research recruitment positions in academia, 12 in cybersecurity and 12 in other IT disciplines in STEM faculties.
Women are a minority in cybersecurity as well as IT in general, however, there has been some overall improvement in women’s participation, but not in cybersecurity. The graphs below visualize the massive male dominance in these disciplines.
Women in Cybersecurity and women in other IT disciplines share some features, like a notable lack of knowledge about IT disciplines when they are in transition between upper secondary/high school and university. The unfortunate result is that stereotypical ideas of IT, with images of male «geeks» and «hooded gamers» who had started programming early, dominate women’s expectations of ICT at university, and they don’t see themselves fit within this image: «I had never programmed before in my life“. The interviews document that there is still a strong association of IT with masculine stereotypes, and more, such ideas about IT becomes a barrier for women to choose any IT disciplines, including cybersecurity.
There are also differences between women in cybersecurity and other IT fields, for instance that cybersecurity was described as open for a more varied set of competences. The women could recognize their own strengths and expertise from otherdisciplines, like arts and social sciences, as relevant in cybersecurity, and this became an important door opener for many of them. We also found that it was easier for women to understand and associate themselves with the goals of cybersecurity rather than with the goals of other IT disciplines. They saw cybersecurity as a field concerning «everybody» and everyday life, thus not only relevant for women but also in need of women.
You can hopefully read more when the paper is published by ACM as: Corneliussen, H. G. (2020). What Brings Women to Cybersecurity? A Qualitative Study of Women’s Pathways to Cybersecurity in Norway, European Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity Conference (EICC 2020).
This is the question we ask in our recent article “What Can Statistics Tell About the Gender Gap in ICT? Tracing Men and Women’s Participation in the ICT Sector Through Numbers“. I have written this together with my colleague Morten Simonsen. The aim of the article was to identify how the gender structure in ICT education and work was represented through statistics. We often associate statistics with “facts” – the pure numbers that can show how things really are. And statistics are indeed important to monitor fields, but statistics are also representations of someone’s choices of which stories to tell.
Abstract Which narratives can statistics tell about men and women’s participation in ICT? The question is relevant across the western world showing a pattern of more men than women in ICT work. This chapter presents an analysis of available statistics that contribute to an image of women’s participation in ICT work and education. The scope of the study is European countries with an emphasis on Norway, however, we also present statistics from OECD. The statistics confirm that the gender imbalance in ICT work is significant, suggesting that monitoring this field is important. The analysis also reveals challenges and gaps in the material, for instance the challenge of finding comparable numbers, a reduced use of gender as a variable in later years, difficulties in identifying the gendered structures of ICT due to a mixture of occupational fields for some of the relevant numbers, while other issues found to be relevant in qualitative studies are not represented in the available statistics. The monitoring of gendered structures of ICT work can be improved by developing statistics that better can capture inequalities and hierarchies. The findings also suggest that qualitative research is an important complement and correction to statistical overviews, in particular for identifying factors that alone and together contribute to gender inequalities in ICT.
Cite the article as: Simonsen M., Corneliussen H.G. (2020) What Can Statistics Tell About the Gender Gap in ICT? Tracing Men and Women’s Participation in the ICT Sector Through Numbers. In: Kreps D., Komukai T., Gopal T.V., Ishii K. (eds) Human-Centric Computing in a Data-Driven Society. HCC 2020. IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology, vol 590. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62803-1_30