ICT Changes Everything! But Who Changes ICT?

10pctwomenWe know that the proportion of women in IT education has been low for decades, but it was still disconcerting to welcome the students to the brand new Bachelor’s degree in information technology in Sogn and Fjordane last week, and find that there are only 3 women among the new students in a group of close to 30 students.

Clem Herman, Radhika Gajjala (WNRI team), and myself have a chapter in press with the title “ICT Changes Everything! But Who Changes ICT?” Through examples we illustrate the effects of a feminist gaze on ICT, including the importance of questioning who is producing and shaping technology.


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 produced 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.

To be published here in September: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-99605-9_18

Welcome, Gilda!


You might have noticed her name, as she has already been part-time involved in Nordwit. From 1th of August, Gilda Seddighi will be working full-time at Western Norway Research Institute (WNRI), where one of her main tasks will be to participate in Nordwit.

Gilda has a PhD from Department for Information Science and Media Studies and affiliated with the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research from University of Bergen, with the thesis “Politicization of grievable lives in Iranian Facebook pages” (2017). Gilda’s main research interests are focused on construction of meaning, gender and identity in relation to information and communication technology, emphasising an inclusive and democratic society by making visible marginalised voices.

We are happy to welcome Gilda as a member of the Nordwit team!

Holiday – who can afford it?

In the Nordic countries, July is the most popular summer holiday month. I am writing this text two days before my own holiday starts, and I feel really tired. At this point, it is hard to imagine how I could make it without a proper four weeks’ vacation. Still, not all of us working in the academia can afford to take a few weeks off.

The latest employment statistics of the University of Tampere from 2016 show how 54 percent of all employments at the university were fixed-term. For doctoral students the rate is the highest, 98 percent; for postdocs 92 percent; and for senior researchers and lectures 66 percent. Almost 60 percent of the professors had a permanent contract. Many fixed-term employees, like me, can enjoy the holidays, but if the contracts are continuously short, or if you’re working on a scholarship you might not be – or feel – entitled to a vacation. Many academics complain how exhausted they never fully recover from work due to short-term contracts.

What does this got to do with gender? Though the statistics of our university do not show the gender division of the fixed-term employment, the Statistics Finland tells us that in 2017 of all employments in Finland, 19 percent of women’s and 13 percent of men’s were fixed-term, and that this relation has stayed more or less the same over a decade. The scholar of work life history, Anu Suoranta (2009) argues that fixed-term jobs have been a mundane way of living for many women in Finland ever since the period between World War I and II. She also suggests that instead of spending time and energy for planning how to get rid of it, we should negotiate better collective agreements for fixed-term employment.

But also academics with permanent or long-term employment may decide to skip the holiday. In our meritocratic universities, academics are encouraged to gather data, write articles and funding applications during the summer. To stay in the career competition, many of us do.

So, if you’re working when you read this text in July and are not planning to have a holiday this summer, close your laptop, put your feet up, smell the summer and relax!

Tiina Suopajärvi

– Statistics Finland, Tilastokeskus, Findikaattori, Osa-aikaset ja määräaikaiset työsuhteet, read 27th June 2018 [https://findikaattori.fi/fi/53].
– Suoranta, Anu (2009) Halvennettu työ. Pätkätyö ja sukupuoli sopimusyhteiskuntaa edeltävissä työmarkkinakäytännöissä. Tampere: Vastapaino.
– Tampereen yliopisto, Henkilöstökertomus 2016, read 27th June 2018 [http://www.uta.fi/hallinto/yliopistopalvelut/henkilostopalvelut/index/henkilostokertomus2016_TaY.pdf].





Gender equality matters in Finland

The brand new equality barometer published by the Statistics Finland tells what people think about gender equality. Since 1998, the Statistics Finland has conducted six gender equality barometers. The latest barometer was conducted as phone interviews during the fall 2017. The representative sample consisted of 3,000 people between the ages of 15-74, living in Finland. 56 percent of them participated in the interviews.

Here, I just pick one topic that I find attention-grabbing to note. For the first time the interviewees were asked about the equality plans in the workplaces. According to the Equality Act, an equality plan must be worked out every other year in the workplaces, in which over 30 employees are working regularly.

According to the barometer results, as many as 40 percent of the respondents working in workplaces with over 30 employees did not know whether an equality plan existed or not in the workplace. Further, only slightly over 25 percent said that they had an equality plan at their workplace. Moreover, what is also worth to stress is that about one third said that an equality plan did not exist in their workplace, which still had over 30 employees.

There were no big gender differences among the respondents. However, with higher education or age, it was more likely that the interviewees reported of an existing equality plan. Further, I find it striking that in the state sector, only 28 percent of female employees, but almost half (47 percent) of male employees, reported that they had an equality plan at the workplace.

I think that the results tell that the equality plans are surprisingly poorly known among the employees in Finland, although the equality plans are extremely useful in proceeding gender equality in everyday working life.

Päivi Korvajärvi 

What can you do to support workplace diversity? Highlight the role of hard work for success rather than innate talent


[Zombie ideas in understanding gender, vol. 3]

One of the most persistent and deep-rooted of all beliefs about human nature is that natural talent (i.e. an innate ability to excel at a specific activity) plays a major role in deciding who will be among the most excellent. No one has ever found a gene variant that predicts peak performance in any given field and no one has ever come up with a way to identify future stars early in their careers. Not according to the Swedish psychologist Anders Ericsson. His research of expert performance in domains such as medicine, music, chess, and sports points to quite a different explanation of why some people excel, and others do not with deliberate practice (e.g. a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic) playing the leading role. As we can see from this quote, his rebuttal of natural talent has a democratizing intent, hoping to prevent those identified as not having the “right” genes from being marginalized or excluded:

It can beget a tendency to assume that some people have a talent for something and others don’t and that you can tell the difference early on. If you believe that, you encourage and support the “talented” ones and disencourage the rest, creating the self-fulfilling prophecy. It is human nature to want to put effort – time, money, teaching, encouragement, support – where it will do the most good and also to try to protect kids from disappointment. There is usually nothing nefarious going on here, but the results can be incredibly damaging. The best way to avoid this is to recognize the potential in all of us – and work to find ways to develop it. (Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool, 2016, Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things, 241-242)

There is also gender aspects in this prevailing myth that genetics strongly limit abilities. One study has found that the belief in natural talent, coupled with the societal tendency to associate brilliance with men and not women, can tip the gender balance in academic fields. The study shows a correlation between the belief that an academic discipline requires innate talent and the scarce numbers of women in that discipline. The culture of the field undermines representation because of stereotypes about intellectual ability, although there has never been proven any real intellectual difference between genders (Leslie et al. 2015). It is one of the persistent beliefs around gender, a zombie idea, which also explains why some ethnic minorities are under-represented in a similar way. According to the research, emphasizing that genius and natural talent are required to succeed can stop women and minority groups from pursuing careers in certain fields. Thus, recommendations for anyone wanting to increase the diversity in the workplace is to

  • Highlight the role of hard work for success rather than innate talent. It is unrealistic to expect peak performance from all employees in all types of works. Nevertheless, to give the right conditions for deliberate practice, such as time, money, mentoring etc. will give more leeway for developing the full potential and abilities of women (and men) at work.
  • Pointing out equal abilities might also help shatter the gender stereotypes. There is no better way to do that than to make counter-stereotypical female role models

Nina Almgren 

Exploring the Gendered Politics of Role Models in Technology

fjordkonfalesund“Models” were the theme of the Fjordkonferanse in Norway 21-22 June 2018 which Hilde G. Corneliussen, Carol A. Dralega, Gilda Seddighi took part with a paper based on the interviews with women in technology-related careers in Norway. Models are often developed to give an explanation about the relationships between two phenomena by focusing on the features that are identified as essential. Models are not representation of reality, however we might forget that the same hierarchies and power relations we observe in the society might influence the way models are developed. We took up this aspect of developing models through the discussion on “role models” and to discuss how women in technology relate to the question of role model. This is the abstract for the paper:

Exploring the Gendered Politics of Role Models in Technology

Hilde G. Corneliussen, Carol A. Dralega, Gilda Seddighi

Western Norway Research Institute

Norway, among the highest scoring countries in the world in measures of gender equality (no.2 in World Economic Forum’s 2017 rating), is still lagging behind when it comes to equality in ICT and technology in educations. Less than one in four of the students are women, and less than 10% women in the more technical subjects. One circular effect of this is that there are few female role models for girls and younger women within these fields, and this lack of people to associate with creates an effect for girls suggesting that “you cannot be what you cannot see”. One solution is to create more role models by identifying and edifying women working in technology. But this is not as simple as it appears since there is still a strong discursive mismatch between feminine identity and technology in Western culture. For instance, it has been suggested that working with technology might appear as “gender in-authentic” for women and that women sometimes feel that they have to “give up” part of the gender identity when entering the field of technology. This is the context for our research question: how do women with a career in technology relate to the question of role models? The paper is based on interviews with women working with technology in Sogn & Fjordane that have been conducted for the project “Women in Technology-Driven Careers”, a Nordic Centre of Excellence funded by Nordforsk.

Gilda Seddighi