What sources? Which ones ‘count’ and which ones don’t?

By Gabriele Griffin

At our Nordwit meeting in Tampere Åsa Cajander (from Computer Science) and I talked about her reading group where they’ve been looking at Calestous Juma’s (2016) Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies. Resistance has been a big topic in our project, as has education, and in particular the paucity of professional educational development for staff around technologies. Institutions tend to imagine that having a technology (hard-/and or software) means that people will use it – which is, of course not the case. One is reminded of Sara Ahmed’s (2011) non-performative performative. Very little is done in many countries to induct staff into new technologies or to even see this as part of continuing professional development. Frequently reference is made to ‘online manuals’ or ‘guidelines’ that can, in fact, be hard to find and, more to the point, which staff have no time to work their way through in order to discover quite what they are supposed to do. I told Åsa about Richard Sennett’s (2008) The Craftsman in which Sennett talks of the ways in which learning happens (over time, honing of skills, repeating processes, etc.) and how this is effectively denied in the ways in which (education) institutions deal with technology and technology user-knowledge acquisition. Åsa said that in her discipline books cannot be cited – only articles. I was very surprised but also reminded of the issue of cross-disciplinary differences.
Oxford University Press – eat your heart out!

What has women and technology to do with programming for children?

By Hilde G. Corneliussen


[Zombie ideas in understanding gender, vol. 2]

I had the great pleasure of talking for the regional conference “Næringsdagane” – the Business Days – 2018 for Sogn & Fjordane, at beautiful Kviknes hotel in Balestrand in beginning of May. One of the main topics of the conference was digitalisation across all sectors in society, and I was asked to talk about “women and technology” and to provide some answers to why there are so few women in IT education and occupations. The widespread digitalisation, after all, requires us to recruit from the entire population.

With my presentation titled “Programming and IT – who would have thought that would become a field for men?” I wanted to show that if we look back in time, there is an alternative story about women and technology, of “forgotten” female role models, including Ada Lovelace, Human Computers, the “ENIAC women”, and Grace Murray Hopper. Many women worked as programmers in the software business during the 1950s and 60s, and they did not think of programming as a field for men, as these quotes from Janet Abbate’s book Recoding Gender. Women’s Changing Participation in Computing from 2012 illustrate:

I was hired a programmer … It was something that women were believed to be good at

It really amazed me that these men were programmers, because I thought it was women’s work!

It never occurred to any of us that computer programming would eventually become something that was thought of as a men’s field

These images of women as suitable programmers, and programming as a suitable occupation for women, have since disappeared. The result is that we lack the vital images and good role models for girls and women to associate with in the field of IT.

In our work with Pillar 1 in NORDWIT we have interviewed women in technology related careers, and they illustrate how the lack of role models is still a challenge. When we asked about role models, one of the young women coming straight out of her master’s study said:

There were several IT companies visiting our class, but they were mostly men. It would have been more appealing and recognisable with a woman.

Another women told us:

I haven’t had any role models that… Because often there haven’t been anyone before us, in a way.

The low proportion of women is reflected in schools, with a low percentage of girls participating in the national pilot for programming in secondary school. “It’s hard to be what you cannot see”, Robin Hauser Reynolds has pointed out in an interview in USA Today. The campaign “#I-look-like-an-engineer” started after Isis Anchalee, featuring on an ad as an engineer, received a lot of attention in social media with comments doubting that she was a real engineer, suggesting she was rather a model hired to make the ad look good. History repeats itself, as the ENIAC women were also once interpreted that way – as “just refrigerator ladies posed in front of the machine to make it look good”.

How can we expect girls to choose programming at school facing a culture where even women who have chosen to work with IT can’t point at female role models, and where women who could have been role models are being distrusted as professionals?

Things obviously need to change!

It is possible to change this?

Because history shows that today’s male dominance is not a given necessity, but a cultural construction.

How can we change it?
There is no quick fix, but still plenty of room for improvement:

  • Don’t accept that “girls just aren’t interested”. Culture shapes interest!
  • Be aware how you contribute to the image of IT. You are part of culture – make space for girls in IT.
  • Be willing to change and always ask questions: What did we do to include girls? How can we change things to include more girls?

Zombie ideas in understanding gender, vol. 1

By Minna Leinonen


Gender conceptions that disrupt our best efforts to effect change are slow to move and unbelievably persistent. Yes, you might have guessed it – they are like zombies.

They just won’t stay dead.

It seems impossible to kill all of them, at least when you are alone. Sometimes you have to go around them. You survive but somebody else has to face them.

Zombie ideas[1] can be risen from an apparently shallow grave when ideals and lived circumstances are confused with one another. I’ve come across workplace situations where the belief that women and men should be equal (or that gender neutrality really can exist) means that they are. If any inequalities are noticed, they are purely coincidental or anomalies in an otherwise fair system. This has led to some eye bulging moments, such as when reading the Strategic Programme of the current Finnish Government where it is claimed that women and men are equal, in the English version: “Finland is also a land of gender equality”. These past few years we have seen political decision-making, as gender blind as it seems to be, tearing down some of the requirements for making this statement true now or in the near future such as making it harder for young people to get a permanent job (women are more commonly in temporary positions than men) and restricting the possibilities of day care for children.

Another zombie idea is that there is a natural order of things that pertains both to (work) organizations and to gender. These orders cannot be touched or chaos will prevail. This kind of thinking makes it especially hard to grasp and try to affect structural problems.

Here I’ve listed only some of the persistent beliefs around gender. What kinds of zombies have you encountered?


[1] Zombie ideas are a metaphor that has been used for example by economists Paul Krugman, John Quiggin in his book Zombie Economics (2010) and ecologist Jeremy Fox .

Centre meeting in Tampere

By Åsa

Tampere meeting

The NordWit meeting in Tampere 16-18 April included lots of interesting discussions. We are such a great team!

We started Monday afternoon with work in the different pillars, and pillar group discussions. There was also some discussion about the workplace for 2018, including deliverables and activities. Among other things we decided that there will be one PhD course in Bergen in 2020 and one in Uppsala 2021 as a part of NordWit. More info about that will be posted on the blog later on.

Tuesday afternoon we did some team building exercises, and Carol Azungi Dralega has blogged about those here. Very enjoyable!

NordWit does action research related to gender and change, and we also had some very nice presentations about different versions of action research. Action research comes in in different flavours that emphasise different aspects of change, and can vary across dimensions such as structured/unstructured, collaborative/less collaborative.

Context is everything?!

By Gabriele

PhD course Tampere

Photo: Åsa Cajander

The Nordwit intensive PhD course “Gender, work and transforming organisations” taking place in Tampere this week is going great, thanks to the fantastic Tampere team and our wonderful Scientific Advisory Board member Julia Nentwich. The participants are coming from as far away as Kenya and Israel, and it’s really good to see them here – even if the local temperature in Tampere is a bit of a shock to the system for some!

Having an international crew drives home how important contextualization is in research – things we take for granted in our own worlds are unknown elsewhere. A Finnish participant working on army personnel’s understanding of their professional identity wrote about the ‘cadet’s vow’ that many of us had never heard about. Another participant discussed support organizations for female entrepreneurship in Turkey – it was interesting to discover that in the heteronormative context in which she did her research husbands encouraged wives to set up SMEs with the help of these support organizations so that the husbands could pay off their debts – this is the husbands’ debts… This brought up the topic of SMEs as family businesses – quite common in countries without welfare systems and with complex relations to the local tax regime. Enough said…

Workshop on Gender Aware Leadership


On March 22nd Guidelines on Gender Aware Leadership (Riktlinjer för ett jämställt ledarskap) were launched in a workshop by Triple Steelix and Nordwit in order to inspire concrete policies and action for steel companies to attract and retain highly skilled female employees. The guidelines are based on knowledge and experience exchange between, on the one hand, women in research and development from companies in the Triple Steelix industrial region and, on the other hand, researchers in Nordwit.

Before lunch we were inspired by lectures by:
Jesper Fundberg, Women’s success in working life – a matter of changing men.
Nyamko Sabuni shared her experiences from the work of ÅF – Making future.
Max Parknäs, Vinnova – Equal Innovation – Who, what and how?
Ann-Cathrin Hellsén, Practical gender equality work in a traditional male workplace.

After lunch, we discussed what kind of interview questions one would ask if one wanted to recruit a gender aware manager. Some examples that came up were: Describe with concrete examples how you have worked to improve gender equality in previous workplaces. How do you ensure that you make equal pay as a manager? Have you worked at a male-dominated/female-dominated/gender-balanced workplace? Which one would you choose and why? We also discussed salary criteria, if gender equality should be rewarded in the paycheck. For example, high level managers could be rewarded by promoting women’s careers. Using negative jargon could be punished salary-wise.

Lastly, we discussed and concretized some of the recommendations in the guidelines. It is important to have data on a very local level, to show that inequality exists – both when it comes to measurable things and things that cannot be measured. It was also said that it is important that managers are aware of the competences of both women and men to make best use of them, and for that to become true, the workplace as a whole needs to be inclusive. It was also said that it is necessary to change men’s behavior in order to create better workplaces for all genders and that male managers with a gender agenda are crucial for making change.

Pictures and interviews from the workshop can be found here.

/Nina and Minna

Gendering Resarch

Yesterday, I lead a seminar on ‘Gendering Research: Teams, Processes, Perspectives and Impact’, for researchers at the beautiful campus of Høgskulen i Vestlandet, Norway. We explored what it means to undertake gender-sensitive research. The back-drop is that the concept ‘gendering research’ has become vital in our universe of cut-throat competition for limited finances and doing research that is impactful. In almost all Calls for proposals, gender is not only a prerequisite but it also is a ‘cross-cutting issue’.


The presentation/seminar aimed at unraveling the what, why and more importantly how gender can be integrated within research proposal writing, research processes and outcomes, in a way that gives it authenticity, efficacy and relevance to garner funding but also in solving today’s societal challenges. We were joined by Dr. Gilda Seddighi from the University of Bergen whose contributions surrounding the history of gender mainstreaming policy in research and gender as an analytical tool were invaluable.

The seminar explored historical, conceptual/philosophical approaches and methodological approaches to fostering gendering research. It is in harmony with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (nr. 5 on gender equality), but also Norwegian Research Council and H2020 principles on gender equality seen as fundamental components of Human Rights and Social Justice, among others. 

The seminar focused on long, medium and short term requirements addressing vertical and horizontal structural and systematic approaches to bridging gender gaps in research anda society. So from exploring regulatory mandates to institutional/structural perrequisites, to building effective teams, to gendering research processes and perspectives, to gender budgeting, gender analysis to tackling resistance and finally a checklist for important indicators.

I am hopeful, this workshop will contribute to raising awareness and skilling researchers with the aim of harnessing diversity, representation, inclusiveness and ultimately improving the scientific quality and impact of research across disciplines!

Workshop funded by Western Norway Research Institute in synergy with the NORDWIT’s Nordic Center of Excellence Project.

/ Carol