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”. Continue reading “When will we reach gender balance in ICT?”

With gender balance as a goal for innovation environments

During some busy weeks this autumn we are inviting research and innovation environments, including research projects, higher education, R&I funders, private and public IT sector, schools and science museums and more, across the western part of Norway to dialogue meetings about competence and recruitment.

Recruiting the “right” competence to technology driven research and innovation can be challenging, in particular in the rural region. Simultaneously we see that very few women apply for IT education in this region – this year only 3% against the national average of 26% women. Our research also indicates that there are few women working in the private IT sector in this region. An important question for the IT sector in general, and in this region in particular, is therefore: how can we recruit the best from all, not only half the population?

Gender balance competence inspiration brochure

Based on our Nordwit research and in collaboration with FixIT, we have developed recommendations to the research and innovation environments for how they can build a strategy for better gender balance, how to remove discrimination and secure diversity in recruitment processes, and to identify how the organization can develop internal routines to secure an inclusive environment.

Interested in hearing more?
The next dialogue meeting about competence and recruitment is October 2nd 2019 in Bergen: https://www.facebook.com/events/644936879363987/
You can also contact us if you want to book a meeting with us.

Contact person
Hilde G. Corneliussen: https://www.vestforsk.no/nn/person/hilde-g-corneliussen

Read more
FixIT: https://www.vestforsk.no/en/project/fixit-activities-increase-proportion-women-forregionss-innovation-projects

Few women find role models in IT

Our article on “Women’s Experience of Role Models in IT” is now published.

Relevant role models are individuals that we can identify with. Our study among women in IT in Norway shows that:

Rolemodels wcMost women identify relevant role models among other women, rather than among men.

Few women identify role models in in fields of information technology.

Many women missed having female role models in IT.

And many found “substitute” role models from other fields, national politics or among networks of female friends.

Female role models are, as one of the women we interviewed said,

“important as a door opener. […] I think that makes things easier. It is not necessary, but it makes things easier.”

You can read the full paper (open access) here, where we present a model of responses reflecting a lack of female role models in IT:  https://www.idunn.no/modeller/18_womens_experience_of_role_models_in_it_landmark_women

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.

First and second education – routes to IT competence for women

two women smiling to each other
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

In our study of women working in technology-driven careers, primarily with IT and digitalization, we have interviewed almost 40 women in Norway. One of our findings show that many women come to work with IT and digitalization via a detour: many of them started with a “gender traditional” education, in humanities, social sciences or healthcare, but then at a later stage changed to IT, or added IT courses to their education. Our findings suggest that this “detour” is related to how girls’ choices and the advices that the young women get from parents, teachers etc., are still to a certain degree guided by gendered stereotypes and seeing IT as a male dominated field. However, when women at a later stage have to relate to IT in working life, also in traditional female dominated fields like health care, they change their view upon IT and what IT represent.

To draw some conclusions from this, first, it is important that girls are introduced early to the wide and varied meanings of IT and digitalization in current working life. Perhaps more girls will choose IT education and find IT related work attractive when it appears in pair with other fields, like ehealth, like we see among the women we have interviewed.

Our study also suggests that continuing education can be an important contribution in providing women with a competence that they to a lesser degree than men acquire through their first educational choices, as women are still a minority among IT students in Norway.

What is our excuse?

photo of a woman holding an ipad
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

It is that time of the year again: young men and women are applying for higher education, hopefully many of them excited about the transition to higher education and following their dreams. Close to 60% of all new applicants for higher education in Norway are women, but women are still a minority in IT and technology. There is a tiny improvement from last year’s 24,2% women applying to Information technology degrees, to 26,2% in April 2019 (Samordnaopptak).

Looking at the numbers of female applicants for the Information technology bachelor in the rural region is however depressing: only 1 woman among 20 applicants. Why are there so few women who dream about a future that includes IT competence? And why so few in this region?

Continue reading “What is our excuse?”

Do women need female role models in the field of IT?

group hand fist bump
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This is one of the questions we ask in Nordwit in our rural study in Norway.

Previous research is ambivalent about whether women need female role models or not in a male dominated field.

“The act of categorization does not involve a positive test”, West and Zimmerman explain, but rather an “if-can” test: ‘if people can be seen as members of relevant categories, then categorize them that way'” (1987).

Our study of women in IT work in Norway has documented that having female role models from IT had not been important for their career in IT, like one of them say: “There haven’t been anyone before us” in this field.

In a forthcoming chapter we present our findings as a model reflecting the informants’ responses in relation to the lack of female role models in IT. They rather point to an empty space where the female role models should have been: a “void” (like above, or feeling alone), or towards substitute female role models (for instance a female prime minister), or they suggest alternative supporters of both genders (for instance partners and mentors).

One of our reviewers for this chapter was eager to point out that women might not want or need female role models. Which is indeed true. But what does that really mean? That female role models are irrelevant? According to our study: no. It rather means that women in the male dominated field of IT are in danger of failing the “if-can” test – like Åsa Cajander’s post also indicates. The answer is, we suggest, not to assume that women don’t want or need female role models, but rather that when facing a professional field that is so tightly connected to the presence of men and masculine symbols, there is a “doing gender” going on in parallel with “doing IT” – and therefore it is difficult to identify female role models that reflect this profession, as women risk failing the (masculine) “doing gender” part of IT.

Which narratives do you tell on the International Women’s Day?

Heading from New York Times, Febr. 13 2019: The Secret History of Women in Coding, The beatuiful image has the caption: “Mary Allen Wilkes with a LINC at M.I.T., where she was a programmer. Credit Joseph C. Towler, Jr.” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/magazine/women-coding-computer-programming.html

Happy International Women’s Day, to women all over the world!

There are many reasons why we still need a Women’s Day and many highly important issues to solve before we get a gender equal society – also in Norway! For instance, more women than men have a higher education in Norway, but women earn in average 86% compared to men. Girls choose maths at high school as often as boys, but only 24% applying to higher IT education are women. In OECD countries, only 2% of girls, against 20% of boys, imagine themselves in a future IT career. Even though IT used to be a field where many women found interesting jobs and where they felt “at home”, this is not part of the dominating cultural discourse in 2019. Instead, women’s early participation in IT is still referred to as a “secret history”, like a recent article in New York Times illustrates (see image). I recommend this article if you are not familiar with women’s part of computing history!

One of the things we emphasise in our work to improve women’s situation in technology-driven R&I (Nordwit, FixIT), is that we tend to shape narratives by including certain things, while excluding others. In the narrative about IT and computing history, women’s contributions is not part of the mainstream story, so many aspects of the women-in-computing-part of this narrative are indeed still “secret”.

I am very proud and happy that I was asked to talk about this “secret story” today, at the local Women’s Day eventCome, listen and discuss if you are near Sogndal!