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.