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
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.
This question – “Do we really need more women in ICT?” – appears in a recent article by Gilda Seddighi and myself. In this article we analyze how the ICT industry and ICT workplaces in Norway deal with challenges of recruiting women to ICT work. The question is not ours, but from one of the ICT experts that we interviewed for this case study, and it appeared in a discussion about whether women were really interested in ICT. This discussion and the quote illustrate how gendered stereotypes suggesting that men are more interested in ICT are still active in shaping attitudes towards and engagement in activities to recruit women. Only about one in four working as ICT experts in Norway are women, and this feeds the discourse of ICT as a male field. Reflecting this, the ICT workplaces we talked with produced a series of alternative ways of seeing the need to recruit women, all of which contributed to reducing the importance of active recruitment initiatives.
Title: “Do we really need more women in ICT?” Discursive negotiations about gender equality in ICT
ICT is one of the most gender-divided fields in Norway and illustrates the “Nordic Gender Paradox”, referring to a mismatch between a high level of participation by women in working life in parallel with a strong gendering of disciplines and professions. A higher proportion of women in ICT professions is a goal that is particularly relevant due to increasing digitalization. This article builds on qualitative empirical material and analyzes meetings with 12 organizations that were invited to discuss gender equality in ICT work. The analysis explores how the discourse of gender equality in ICT is perceived in the organizations and how this affects attitudes to practical gender equality work. Ten alternative approaches to gender equality in ICT are identified. These can be analyzed as discursive practices that articulate “resistance” as alternative meanings that challenge the discourse of gender equality in ICT, as they renegotiate, redefine and, in some cases, reject the discourse. Recruitment of women to ICT work is a task left to the individual organizations. The authors claim that there are still gendered perceptions of who is appropriate for ICT work, and these perceptions do not motivate the organizations to engage in gender equality work.
How to quote: Corneliussen, H. G., & Seddighi, G. (2019). “Må vi egentlig ha flere kvinner i IKT?” Diskursive forhandlinger om likestilling i IKT-arbeid. Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning, 43(4), 273-287.
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.
Our 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. Dralega, Gilda 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!
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.
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
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
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!
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?”
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.
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.