What Brings Women to Cybersecurity?

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 other disciplines, 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).

Update: the article is now published online by ACM

“Which narratives can statistics tell about men and women’s participation in ICT?”

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“. 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.

Read the full article here: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-62803-1_30

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 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

“Technologies are us” – PhD course by Nordwit and UiB

18 PhD candidates and a handful of professors and researchers came together last week for the PhD Course “Technologies are Us: Feminist Perspectives on Posthuman Futures”.

This was Nordwit’s second PhD course, organized as a joint event between Nordwit and Centre for Women’s and Gender Research at University of Bergen (UiB). Half the group met at UiB, while the other half participated online through Zoom, since Covid-19 still makes it challenging to travel.

The three keynote speakers for the course are all involved in research that in various ways raise questions about what current technological development means 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?

Jill Walker Rettberg, Professor at Digital Culture at UiB, talked about “The Biased Face of Technology: Algorithmic Inequality and Algorithmic Persuasion”, and she presented a new framework for “situated data analysis”.

N. Katherine Hayles, Distinguished Research Professor of English at University of California, Los Angeles talked about “Ethics and the Posthuman: A Feminist Perspective” and her concept of “cognitive assemblages” suggesting a way of understanding how algorithms, AI and humans make decisions together.

Kari Jegerstedt, Associate Professor at Centre for Women’s and Gender Research, talked about “Bodies and Brains: Sex and Subjectivity in the Age of Neuro-Technologies”, exploring the challenging relations between biology and AI.

For all of us this was the first time hosting an event in an online-offline parallel stream, making the title “technologies are us” even more relevant than we had imagined when planning this a year ago. The zoom participants missed part of the social experience of meeting people, but overall, the course was a success with international participants from Norway, Europe and as far away as Australia and the USA.

The Failure of the National Gender Equality Regime?

In my last post I shared some of the findings in our new article: “Employers’ Mixed Signals to Women in IT: Uncovering how Gender Equality Ideals are Challenged by Organizational Context”, where we have identified various ways in which IT organizations renegotiate the call for gender equality in IT. Based on the findings we have suggested a model that visualises how the “national gender equality regime” fails to implement gender equality as an active goal in the organizations.

We explain the model this way:

“[T]he national gender equality regime creates expectations to employers’ active work to improve the gender imbalance in IT, reflected in rules and regulations. However, gender balance in IT is not a specific requirement and there are few and vague guidelines for the organizations for engaging in gender equality work in general. The organizations’ representatives see the request for gender equality in the context of their organization, introducing internal and external factors that contribute to modifying the understanding of women’s underrepresentation and whether or not it is worth changing. This process introduces doubt and alternative ways of perceiving the situation, resulting in limited space for organizations to find motivation to engage in gender equality actions.”
(Corneliussen & Seddighi 2020, p. 46)

The most problematic finding is that the “draining” of gender equality as a goal is happening within the framework of the national gender equality regime rather than challenging the regime itself.

How can we approach the challenge of gender equality not being perceived as a relevant goal within fields of IT?

Read the full paper:
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?

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.

male and female signage on wall
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

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:

Continue reading “Why is it so difficult to achieve gender balance in IT work?”

“You don’t see it before you believe it” – FixIT in collaboration with Nordwit

fixitended
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.

Continue reading ““You don’t see it before you believe it” – FixIT in collaboration with Nordwit”

“It is not a paradox that few girls choose ICT education”

nationen
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!

That was the short version – read the full piece in Norwegian in Nationen  (or with google translate).

Read more (open access):

Identified knowledge gaps on women in ICT

Gender imbalance is a key issue in the ICT research of Western Norway Research Institute. In a recent report, two researchers gather all available statistics on the participation of women in the ICT sector, which is expected to see rapid expansion in coming years. – We aim to fill the identified knowledge gaps through qualitative research, says Hilde G. Corneliussen.

By Idun A. Husabø
Researcher and communication advisor at Western Norway Research Institute (Vestlandsforsking)

The statistical report on women in information and communication technology (ICT) in Norway is the result of fruitful, inter-disciplinary collaboration between ICT researcher and historian Hilde G. Corneliussen and Morten Simonsen, statistician at the same institute. The purpose of the research was to build a foundation for further research on the topic of the lasting and worrying gender imbalance in professions related to ICT.

– Western countries all share this gender imbalance in ICT. This also characterizes the Nordic countries, contrary to how they are usually associated with a high degree of gender equity. It is of great importance to establish the exact figures in order to gain closer insight into the issue, says Corneliussen, who has conducted considerable research in this area and is currently part of a Nordic Centre of Excellence on women in technology-driven professions, Nordwit.

A widening gap

Statistics tell a story of underrepresentation of women in ICT, both in Norway as well as in many other countries. Although the balance has been somewhat improved in later years, a satisfactory balance is far ahead, as the digitalization of society is only about to begin.

Soon, a large share of jobs will require formal competence within ICT. The current gender gap is therefore likely to widen, rather than the opposite, unless more women are recruited to ICT educations and careers.

Preparing the ground for comparison

Gaining an overview of the Norwegian statistics and deeper insight into the figures, has been a prerequisite for later comparisons with statistics from other countries.

As an example, the report shows that female employees constitute approximately 20 percent, i.e. one fifth, of the total number of ICT professionals.

– The exact share at which one arrives in each country, is highly dependent on the chosen approach to counting and coding employees. Therefore, it is necessary to study the underlying premises. Having completed this process, we are now ready to start comparing the situation in different countries, says Corneliussen.

Decisions and power

Digitalization is expected to spread across professions previously not considered ‘technical’, including, for example, nursing, which is already facing increasing use of digital technologies in health care services. Thus, soon, people without an ICT background will be required to take important decisions regarding the use of ICT.

ICT experts will also be given many important tasks on the basis of their technical competence.

– Unavoidably, a group of professionals who develop solutions and services for all of society, will hold a certain power. This is why gender balance in ICT is of such great importance, says Corneliussen.

Shedding light on a variety of stories

One might say that the main purpose of the report compiled by Simonsen and Corneliussen is to identify the missing pieces in the larger picture.

As an example, a small group of female employees has caught the attention of the researchers: those who are employed in the ICT sector, but do not receive a salary – in other words, women who are self-employed and freelance workers.

– One of the issues we will be looking more closely at, is what motivated these women to be self-employed, and whether their decisions were related to factors such as working conditions in ICT enterprises, Corneliussen says.

– Figures are important, but we will not find all the answers by looking solely at the statistics. Qualitative research is needed in order to shed light on a variety of stories from women in ICT work. Hopefully, a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods will eventually provide us with a deeper understanding of women’s participation in the ICT sector, says Morten Simonsen.

Read the full report here: https://www.vestforsk.no/en/publication/can-statistics-tell-stories-about-women-ict

(Produced for Vestforsk.no by Idun A. Husabø)

Technologies are Us: Feminist Perspectives on Posthuman Futures

All interested PhD candidates are welcome to apply for the three days intensive PhD course on feminist thinking about technological development

  • Place: University of Bergen
  • Course dates: September 23-25 2020
  • Registration deadline: 28.02.2020 – 14.00
Read more about the course here: PhD Course information

Photo: Colorbox/Nina B. Dahl

 

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.

Contact organizers:

“Do we really need more women in ICT?”

photo of woman using her laptop
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

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.

You can read the article for free (in Norwegian) here: https://www.idunn.no/tfk/2019/04/maa_vi_egentlig_ha_flere_kvinner_i_ikt

Title: “Do we really need more women in ICT?” Discursive negotiations about gender equality in ICT

Abstract

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.