Women in Information Technology Project
The lack of female participation in Information Technology (IT) education and professional work is a challenging and constant issue. This issue is now a well documented research area, but the causes and remedies remain puzzling and complex.
Based out of Griffith University, the WinIT project was started in 1995 by Associate Professor Liisa von Hellens and Dr Sue Nielsen (Jenine Beekhuyzen joined in 2000, and Kaylene Clayton in 2005). Our longitudinal study - called Women in Information Technology, or the WinIT project, explores the perceptions and attitudes of women in secondary school, undergraduate and postgraduate university study and in the workplace. The project attempts to understand the factors which influence these females to enter Information TEchnology studies (or not), and to remain in an IT career. Our longitudinal research into IT education and work has been described as 'exemplary' and the team has considerable experience in undergraduate and postgraduate university teaching, short training programmes, IT consulting and community projects. Members of the team have also chaired and participated in equity and policy committees in IT education and work.
Information Technology work and education was originally thought of as a ‘level playing field’ where gender would be irrelevant, allowing flexibility in time and space. However, female participation in IT industry and education has declined in the last few decades and IT has problems in terms of discrimination, lack of ‘family friendliness’ and work intensification. With the overall overall increase of female participation in the workplace and the requirement in most countries to eliminate discrimination, harassment and other unfair work practices, the issue of gender remains a problem for IT education and work.
Our research has taken the view that gender and IT are socially constructed. That is, IT is constructed as a domain attractive to certain types of people, primarily as a male domain, in the same way such occupations as child-care and nursing are constructed as female domains. The advantage of this view is that what can be constructed can also be deconstructed and changed. The more women enter professional-level IT education and work, especially in technical areas, the less IT will be viewed as a male domain. Similar changes have been seen in other professional fields, including law and medicine.
In February 2007, the WinIT team were invited to Hanover Germany to teach our course on 'Gender issues in information technology education and work'. The WinIT team have developed a flexible set of courses which:
- Introduce participants to the ‘gendering’ of IT
- Discuss the status of current research
- Explore the current situation and causes of declining female participation in IT education and work, in terms of recruitment, retention and progress
- Identify potential solutions to the problems in IT eduation and in the workplace
- Provide skills in ethical analysis and decision making, and conflict management to assist participants to resolve problems and to contribute to improving the situation
Teaching and assessment methods include, scenario and case study analysis, research methods, team work, and analytical reports. A large set of resources will soon be available to participants here on the WinIT website.
Click here for CFP to Information Systems Journal (ISJ) Special Issue on Women and IT. Increasing the Representation of Women in Information and Communication technology: Research on Intervention Programs
Edited by: Associate Professor Liisa von Hellens, Griffith University, Australia
Associate Professor Julie Fisher, Monash University, Australia
Professor Eileen M Trauth, Penn State University, USA
Click here for our course information