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
New publication: Corneliussen, H. G., & Seddighi, G. (2020).Employers’ Mixed Signals to Women in IT: Uncovering how Gender Equality Ideals are Challenged by Organizational Context. In P. Kommers & G. C. Peng (Eds.), Proceedings for the International Conference ICT, Society, and Human Beings 2020 (41-48): ADIS Press.
Why is it so difficult to achieve gender balance in IT work? Our study of attitudes towards women’s under-representation in IT and how IT employers and organizations deal with this imbalance, give some of the answers. These are some of the attitudes that work as barriers to recruit more women to IT work:
When many women hold other (non-IT) positions in an organization, recruiting women to IT work does not necessarily appear as important because the organization at large does not experience a gender imbalance.
Recruiting women is often seen as a question of work environment rather than who holds IT positions.
Gender equality is interpreted as “treating everybody the same”, and since women are welcome (even when they don’t apply to IT jobs), their under-representation is not considered a gender equality challenge.
Focus on gender equality in IT has to yield for other types of marginalization in the organization, for instance for immigrants or people with disabilities.
Stereotypical ideas about who the best and most interested IT workers are, are still strong in Norway, making employers doubt that it will be possible to recruit women; or, even questioning whether women do have the “right” competence.
Gender imbalance in IT is seen as a temporary challenge that will eventually fix itself.
While the many alternative approaches takes the energy out of gender equality work, the national gender equality regime – gender equality as something good and something we all want – is not questioned.
Based on this analysis we have proposed a model that contributes to explaining the Nordic Gender Equality Paradox, illustrating how the gender equality norm can co-exist with the very attitudes that undermine the norm.
Last week we ended a project that has been working in close collaboration with Nordwit in Norway: FixIT – a project that has developed and organised activities to increase women’s participation in innovation projects. We developed a “gender balance competence package” for increasing awareness of and knowledge about gendered structures in research and innovation, with a brochure with guidance and tools for organizations to work towards gender balance. A balance competence course offered to innovation actors from private and public sector.
This of course, required knowledge, and this is what Nordwit provided: research-based knowledge about women’s experiences in the field of tech-driven R&I as well as organizations’ and employers’ attitudes and strategies for increasing women’s participation in this field.
I was interviewed by Kilden Genderresearch.no – the national centre for gender research in Norway. It follows up the “kronikk” I published last month, where I claim that it is not a paradox that girls do not chose to study ICT, but rather an effect of how central actors around girls take for granted that girls don’t want to study ICT.
From Nationen: https://www.nationen.no/motkultur/faglig-snakka/ikke-et-paradoks-at-fa-jenter-velger-ikt-utdanning/
That’s the title of a short popular science piece I have in Nationen today discussing the “Nordic Gender Equality Paradox”: this often recognized “absurd” mismatch between the high degree of gender equality in the Nordic countries combined with a high degree of horizontal gender segregation in education and working life.
The low proportion of girls choosing ICT is not really a paradox, I claim here, but a result of how “those who should have cheered the girls on to fun, exciting and good paying jobs in ICT, failed them”. For more than two decades I’ve interviewed and talked with not only girls and women in ICT, but also a large number of teachers, parents, ICT companies and others who should have been first in line to encourage girls to engage in ICT contexts and education. Among these groups we have found a widespread distrust in the possibility of making girls interested in ICT. How could we expect girls to choose a career path that our culture does not expect girls to be interested in? The paradox is thus not girls not choosing ICT education, but this distrust and the absence of supporters cheering them on!
Corneliussen, H. G., & Tveranger, F. (2018). Programming in Secondary Schools in Norway – a Wasted Opportunity for Inclusion Proceedings of Gender&IT’18, Heilbronn, Germany, May 2018 (Gender&IT’18) (172-182). New York, NY, USA: ACM. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3196839.3196867
Corneliussen, H. G., & Prøitz, L. (2016). Kids Code in a rural village in Norway: could code clubs be a new arena for increasing girls’ digital interest and competence? Information, Communication & Society, 19(1 (Special Issue: Understanding Global Digital Cultures)). doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2015.1093529
The report by Morten Simonsen and myself has collected statistics aiming to give an overview of women’s participation in ICT work and education in Norway, comparing it with the European situation, particularly with Sweden and Finland, as this is part of the Nordwit Nordic Centre of Excellence where we collaborate with researchers from University of Uppsala and University of Tampere.
The PhD course invites to feminist thinking about technological development
What are the consequences of current technological development for feminist thinking about equality, freedom and change? Are algorithms gendered, and does it matter? What does sex and subjectivity mean in the age of neuro-technologies and AI? Are we at all still “human”? Is there a specific ethics of the posthuman?
These are some of the questions that will be scrutinized during the three-days course in September 2020. The themes of the course are divided into the following topics:
The Biased Face of Technology
Ethics and the Posthuman
Bodies and Brains
If you are working with these or related questions, or are simply interested to learn more, join us for a PhD course in Bergen.
The course is arranged by Nordic Centre of Excellence on Women in Technology Driven Careers (NORDWIT) and Centre for Women’s and Gender Research at University of Bergen.