When will we reach gender balance in ICT?

Involving more women in ICT is important for many reasons, and one of them is the growing importance of ICT competence across sectors and industries. ICT specialists are on top of the EU’s skills-shortage list, and the low proportion of women choosing ICT education and work has been identified as one of the reasons for a growing gap between demand and supply of ICT specialists (EIGE). This is the case also for Norway, where women make up less than 25% of ICT specialists.

sognefjorden
Sognefjorden, Norway. Photo by Hilde G. Corneliussen

We wanted to know more about how companies and employers for ICT specialists in Norway work with gender equality and improving the gender balance in ICT. We invited 12 organizations from different sectors and industries that had in common that they were all involved in ICT research, development and innovation, to meetings for discussing gender equality in ICT work. None of the organizations had many female ICT specialists (some had none), and they all recognized the need to recruit women to ICT. But we also observed many alternative ways of seeing the situation. We experienced some of these alternative ways of understanding the situation (few women in ICT), the goal (more women in ICT) and the explanations that followed, as a form of “resistance”.Each time we traveled back home from one of these meetings, Gilda Seddighi and me, we discussed this “resistance”, trying to understand what was going on: when, how, and why did the starting point for which we had experienced a common agreement around (there are few women in ICT; it would be good to have more women in ICT) suddenly disintegrate into alternative viewpoints and explanations. And what did this do to the organizations’ will to engage in practical gender equality work?

Bleijenbergh (2018) and Dick (2004) have both found that gender equality projects often meet resistance. Sara Ahmed claims that “the struggle for diversity to become an institutional thought requires certain people to ‘fight their way’” (2012:26). The organizations we interviewed did not seem to have any dedicated people to take this fight.

Dick suggests that “resistance” to gender equality work could be analysed as “discursive resources” that the individual uses to understand his/her organizational context. We are currently preparing an article where we will discuss this “resistance” as discursive resources, and where we illustrate 10 different ways that the goal of gender equality in ICT is redefined, adjusted or even rejected.

To be continued…

References

Ahmed, Sara. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life.  Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.

Bleijenbergh, Inge. “Transformational Change Towards Gender Equality: An Autobiographical Reflection on Resistance During Participatory Action Research.” Organization 25, no. 1 (2018): 131-38.

Dick, Penny. “Resistance to Diversity Initiatives.” In Identity Politics at Work: Resisting Gender and Gendering Resistance, edited by Robyn Thomas, Albert Mills and Jean Helms Mills, 67-84. Oxfordshire, New York: Routledge, 2004.

EIGE. Women and Men in Ict: A Chance for Better Work–Life Balance – Research Note.  Luxembourg: EIGE: European Institute for Gender Equality, Publications Office of the European Union, 2018. Doi: https://doi.org/10.2839/310959.

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