In and out of the boys’ club – women’s narratives from the ICT industry

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Degree programme
International Design Business Management
The purpose of this research is to build understanding of the reasons behind women’s low representation in the ICT industry. Conventional approaches have not been able to account for the persistence of the problem, and because of this, this study adopts a more critical perspective toward gender relations in ICT by drawing attention to the larger societal context of the phenomenon. The objective of the research is to explore how gender emerges in social interaction, processes and practices in the workplace, and how women give meaning to these experiences in narrative form. Following a feminist research orientation, I further problematize the societal context in which the women’s meaning-making takes place. This research is qualitative in nature and follows a social constructionist epistemology that understands reality to be formed through language in social interaction. Employing a narrative research methodology and wishing to give voice to women themselves, I produced the research data in semi-structured interviews with nine self-identified women who work in different positions in the ICT industry in Finland. In analyzing the women’s narratives, I examined especially their dialogic and performance elements, reading closely the research context and the interactive nature of the narratives’ production. After identifying prevalent themes in how the women discursively gave meaning to gender, I constructed the findings into one overarching narrative, “fitting in,” on three analytical levels: the self, the organization and the society. The findings of the study suggest that women’s experiences of gender relations in ICT are shaped by the masculinity of technology and the oppressive gendered structures of business organizations at large. The women’s generally positive experiences of the industry contained subtle, ambiguous and even contradictory meanings whose closer interrogation revealed gender to play a central role in whether the women felt competent, valued and fit for the workplace. ICT thus appears to be a place for such “doing” of gender that obscures and downplays the significance of gender, especially in potentially negative cases, while at the same reifying the traditional gender order that considers masculinity superior to femininity. Often the women also contributed to these oppressive notions of gender themselves regardless of the quality of their personal experience. The findings signal an internalization of the gender order and emphasize the need to make gendered structures visible in organizations.
Thesis advisor
Tienari, Janne
gender, women, technology, ICT, narrative, feminist research
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