The issue of gender within computing: reflections from the UK and Scandinavia

Maxine Robertson, Sue Newell, Jacky Swan, Lars Mathiassen, Gro Bjerknes

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    18 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper explores some of the reasons that may underlie the gender segregation and declining levels of female participation within the field of computing in Europe during the 1990s in both the professional (industrial) and academic spheres. The interrelationships between three areas - communicative processes, social networks and legitimizing claims to knowledge overlaid by gendered-power relations - are used to analyse and explain the existing situation. The paper draws upon statistical data to explore the extent of gender segregation and then focuses on the authors' own experiences within the UK and Scandinavia in order to explore some of the underlying causes. While direct discrimination does still occur, the paper suggests that indirect, deep-rooted discrimination is the major reason for the situation that currently exists. Drawing upon our own experiences in academia and business and acknowledging the importance of the institutional context, the paper offers a number of recommendations as to how the current situation may be improved. We suggest first that consideration is given to the pedagogical design and marketing of computing courses so that individuals are initially attracted to computing from far more diverse backgrounds, approaches and interests than at present. Second, we suggest that those with influence in the field reflect upon the constitution and behaviours of the informal networks in which they are involved and seek to include female researchers more actively here. Finally we suggest that consideration is given in more general terms to how the field may become more gender neutral and, thus, more inclusive in the future. Masculine discourses and 'hard' skills have dominated within computing for too long and contribute significantly to the declining participation of women within computing.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)111-126
    Number of pages16
    JournalInformation Systems Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2001


    • Gender
    • Information systems
    • Information technology

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