After many years of studying how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is gendered in the Norwegian and Nordic culture, my interest is more in what successfully brings women into ICT, rather than what excludes women from ICT. The chapter on unconventional routes into ICT work that I wrote together with my colleague Gilda Seddighi, explores how women come to tech work, not through the more “conventional” route of choosing the “correct” subjects at school that leads to ICT at university etc. Instead, in this chapter we focus on the unconventional routes that bring many women into ICT work.
The chapter is based on in-dept interviews with women working with ICT where a majority of the women we interviewed had found an alternative route to ICT. This included a)a delayed entry into ICT education, b)a natural progression into ICT due to digitalization of non-technological disciplines and occupations, and c) pursuing opportunities arising as non-technological competences are increasingly needed and valued in digitalization.
less conventional routes illustrate women’s professional development as motivated
by processes of digitalization and the recognition of a wide set of
professional fields and competences needed in ongoing digital transformations.
Relying on entry points less affected by masculine stereotypes, the women
contribute to new ways of co-constructing gender and ICT in the new digitalized
Cite this chapter: Corneliussen, H. G., & Seddighi, G. (2022), Unconventional routes into ICT work: Learning from women’s own solutions for working around gendered barriers. In G. Griffin (Ed.), Gender Inequalities in Tech-Driven Research and innovation: Living the Contradiction (56-75), Bristol: Bristol University Press.
Written together with Clem Herman and Radhika Gajjala in:
This Changes Everything – ICT and Climate Change: What Can We Do?
13th IFIP TC 9 International Conference on Human Choice and Computers, HCC13 2018, Held at the 24th IFIP World Computer Congress, WCC 2018, Poznan, Poland, September 19–21, 2018, Proceedings
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 book is edited by Nordwit coordinator Gabriele Griffin and has contributions from Nordwit researchers as well as colleagues from the Nordic countries.
Together with Gilda Seddighi and one with Carol Azungi Dralega, I am involved in three chapters:
Corneliussen, H. G., & Seddighi, G.: Unconventional routes into ICT work: Learning from women’s own solutions for working around gendered barriers. In G. Griffin (Ed.), Gender Inequalities in Tech-Driven Research and innovation: Living the Contradiction (pp. 56-75). Bristol: Bristol University Press.
Corneliussen, H. G., Seddighi, G., & Dralega, C. A. (2022). The Discourse of Rurality in Women’s Professional- life Narratives: Gender and ICT in Rural Norway. … (pp. 173-187)
Seddighi, G., & Corneliussen, H. G. (2022). ‘If it had been only me, it would not have worked out’: Women negotiating conflicting challenges of ICT work and family in Norway … (pp. 140-155)
The Nordic countries are regarded as frontrunners in promoting equality, yet women’s experiences on the ground are in many ways at odds with this rhetoric.
Putting the spotlight on the lived experiences of women working in tech-driven research and innovation areas in the Nordic countries, this volume explores why, despite numerous programmes, women continue to constitute a minority in these sectors.
Contributors flesh out the differences and similarities across different Nordic countries and explore how the shifts in labour market conditions have impacted on women in research and innovation.
This is an invaluable contribution to global debates around the mechanisms that maintain gendered structures in research and innovation, from academia to biotechnology and IT.
Open access: You can download the book from OAPEN https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/55792
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.
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.
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.
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