An Exploration of Dualisms in Female Perceptions of IT Work

L. von Hellens, S.H. Nielsen, J. Beekhuyzen
InSITE 2003  •  Volume 3  •  2003
This paper explores the way that professional women working in the IT industry discuss the nature of their wDrk. Previous work suggested that the way women talk about their work reinforces widely held impressions of the Information Technology industry (Nielsen, von Hellens, Beekhuyzen and Trauth 2003). In this paper Structuration Theory illuminates how this talk is characterised by dualisms which are not always consistent with the womens' lived experiences. The interview data reveals contradictions in these dualisms, indicating that these polarised views of women and IT work are being undermined by women in the IT industry. The perceptions of the interviewees are discussed as structures of signification that need to be altered in order to successfully challenge these dualisms. This paper suggests that mentoring, interactions with professional IT organisations, and professional IT women talking to females in their IT education years can give new ideas to the perceptions of IT and thus challenge these dualisms. It is suggested that exposing females in their IT education years to the professional IT women who are challenging these dualisms is an essential part of transforming these structures of signification. This research is part of an ongoing project (WinIT) commenced in 1995, which seeks to understand the declining female participation in IT education and work. In order to have a better understanding of the way women help configure the institutional realm of IT work, we propose that more qualitative studies of women at work in IT as well as women talking about IT are needed.
Women in IT, Structuration Theory, Australia, Mentoring
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