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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 13:39 10/24/2007
Journal Abstracts #293: October 24, 2007

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 10, Number 3, June 2007

Online ISSN: 1468-4462, Print ISSN: 1369-118X


Judy Wajcman (Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
This paper situates current discussions of women's position in ICTs in the wider context of feminist debates on gender and technology. While a common trend among early feminist theorists was a profound pessimism about the inherent masculinity of technology, this was replaced during the 1990s by an unwarranted optimism about the liberating potential of technoscience for women. This article gives an account of both technophobia and technophilia, arguing that recent approaches drawing on the social studies of technology provide a more subtle analysis. Avoiding both technological determinism and gender essentialism, technofeminist approaches emphasize that the gender-technology relationship is fluid and flexible, and that feminist politics and not technology per se is the key to gender equality.

Keywords: Feminism; gender; technology; mutual shaping

'I'M NOT INTERESTED IN COMPUTERS': Gender-based occupational choices of adolescents (pp299-319)
Els Rommes; Geertjan Overbeek; Ron Scholte; Rutger Engels; Raymond De Kemp (Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)
Which cultural factors offer an explanation for girls' reluctance to choose technological subjects, such as computing science? This question is explored by critically analysing data from individual interviews and focus-group interviews with 86 Dutch adolescents. According to what the authors call the 'self-to-profession matching' theory, adolescents systematically compare what they are good at, what they want from a job, and what activities they like, with their (in)correct expectations of a particular profession. Examples are given of how this process can lead to gender-based segregation in computing science. The interviews illustrate this tendency when girls say, for instance, 'I'd rather work with people than with computers'. However, by analysing the interview material 'against the grain', the authors argue that the so-called 'self-to-prototype matching' theory may offer a better description of how a choice of profession is made. Adolescents tend to choose based on a prototype of someone working in a profession, even when they know this prototype is incorrect, and even when this prototype includes characteristics that are irrelevant for that profession, such as sexual attractiveness.

Keywords: Gender segregation of occupations; choice of profession; computing science; self-to-prototype matching; adolescent; reading against the grain

GENDER, COMPUTING AND THE ORGANIZATION OF WORKING TIME: Public/private comparisons in the Australian context (pp320-337)
Chris Diamond; Gillian Whitehouse (School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Professional computing employment in Australia, as in most advanced economies, is highly sex segregated, reflecting well-rehearsed ideas regarding the masculinity of technology and computing culture. In this paper we are concerned with the processes of work organization that sustain and reproduce this gendered occupational distribution, focusing in particular on differences and similarities in working-time arrangements between public and private sectors in the Australian context. While information technology companies are often highly competitive workplaces with individualized working arrangements, computing professionals work in a wide range of organizations with different regulatory histories and practices. Our goal is to investigate the implications of these variations for gender equity outcomes, using the public/private divide as indicative of different regulatory frameworks. We draw on Australian census data and a series of organizational case studies to compare working-time arrangements in professional computing employment across sectors, and to examine the various ways employees adapt and respond. Our analysis identifies a stronger 'long hours culture' in the private sector, but also underlines the rarity of part-time work in both sectors, and suggests that men and women tend to respond in different ways to these constraints. Although the findings highlight the importance of regulatory frameworks, the organization of working time across sectors appears to be sustaining rather than challenging gender inequalities in computing employment.

Keywords: Gender; computing; working time; public sector; pay equity

CELEBRATING HETEROGENEITY?: A survey of female ICT professionals in England (pp338-357)
Marie Griffiths; Karenza Moore; Helen Richardson (Salford Business School, University of Salford, Manchester, UK)
This paper introduces key findings from a large-scale, online survey of women in the ICT industry across England undertaken between October 2004 and October 2005. Placed in a theoretical framework which draws on critical perspectives from within information systems (IS), and the sociology of gender and of technology, the authors examine some of the issues faced by female ICT professionals. The context for this paper is the ongoing under-representation of women in the ICT industry in England, and the difficulties that the industry is having retaining women, particularly at senior levels. Data are presented on the demographic composition of women in the ICT industry in England. In addition the authors focus on their management of domestic and caring responsibilities, including changes in working practices they have experienced as a result of these responsibilities. These data are particularly pertinent given current government and industry debates regarding the 'work-life balance' and 'flexible working' in the ICT industry, partially as a response to the need for a more diverse ICT workforce. Alongside information on the career histories of female ICT professionals, the authors review their perceptions of pay and reward packages, working environments, the skills they hold, and the recognition they may or may not receive in their current posts. They present reports of a 'long-hours' and 'presenteeism' culture in the ICT industry, and the existence of gendered informal networks in ICT. They also examine female ICT professionals' perceptions of the current and future-possible image of the industry. The findings highlight the continued masculinization of ICT work, and some of the difficulties faced by women working in what remain statistically and symbolically male-dominated environments.

Keywords: Female ICT professionals; heterogeneity; masculinized domain

TOOLS AND TOYS : Communicating gendered positions towards technology (pp358-383)
Elisabeth K. Kelan (The Lehman Brothers Centre for Women in Business, London Business School, London, UK)
With the rising importance of technology in the information and knowledge society, the gender-technology relationship is ever more important when thinking about gender equality. Gender researchers have shown not only that the use and design of technologies is gendered, but that people also position themselves in relation to technology, based on certain gendered assumptions about technology in societies. This article looks at how people working in quintessential information and knowledge society professions, namely information communication technology (ICT) work, position themselves in relation to technology. Using a social constructivist framework and a discourse analysis, it shows how gender differences are achieved in communication: men tend to describe technology as a toy, while women tend to describe technology as a tool. In some instances this pattern is broken, which opens up the opportunity to rethink the gender binary. This article argues that the way in which people position themselves in relation to technology continues to be gendered, which may threaten gender equality in the information and knowledge society, and it also indicates that there is the possibility of change.

Keywords: Gender; technology; ICTs; work; discourse analysis

CARTOGRAPHY OF GENDER EQUALITY PROJECTS IN ICT: Liberal equality from the perspective of situated equality (pp384-403)
Marja Vehviläinen (Department of Women's Studies, University of Tampere, Finland); Kristiina Brunila (Department of Education, University of Helsinki, Finland)
This paper examines gender equality activities in the context of information and communication technology (ICT), traces the social and cultural relations that intertwine with them and discusses the understandings of gender, equality and ICT maintained in them. The aim of the paper is to analyse how liberal equal treatment actions prevail in ICT, although it is well known that liberal politics alone do not succeed in promoting gender equality, and not even in fulfilling its own goal of raising the proportions of women in technology. The study is based on oral history interviews with 30 women who have committed important parts of their lives to gender equality activities through several decades, as well as follow-up studies of women's ICT groups that aimed to promote equality in ICT expertise, both of these studies being conducted in Finland. The interviewed gender equality workers are competent promoters of gender and equality. However, they need to negotiate their aims, for example, in order to get funding, within national and transnational institutional practices, with actors who have little knowledge regarding the social construction of gender, equality or ICT. The managerial terms 'efficiency' and 'good practice' then take over the understandings of the gender equality activities in ICT, mainly organized as projects, and further emphasize the measurable goals often linked to liberal gender equality actions. These terms have material consequences and while gender equality projects continue to provide possibilities for unexpected changes, they are locked within liberal politics.

Keywords: Gender equality; gender and ICT; gender equality projects; understandings of equality; liberal equality; situated equality

DESIGN OF DIGITAL DEMOCRACIES: Performances of citizenship, gender and IT (pp404-423)
Pirjo Elovaara (Technoscience Studies, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlshamn, Sweden); Christina Mörtberg (Department of Informatics, University of Oslo/University of Umeå, OSLO, Norway)
The point of departure for this article is several Swedish IT policies that articulate goals for further development of the welfare state, which demand and enable active citizenship as well as enrolment of IT in the performance of this active citizenship. This article also examines the performance of active citizenship in a variety of sociotechnical arenas where people and technology coexist. Does the notion of active citizenship turn out a number of performances when translated into materialized technologies, such as Internet portals and web-based services? The authors juxtapose the policies with a construction of agencies in the story of citizens' design. In the last section, the discussions taking place in the parliament of things are summarized and related to the problematizations of citizenship, gender and IT.

Keywords: Citizenship; gender; information technology; parliament of things; IT policies; Sweden

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