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Fredrik Sjögren, PhD at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Lars Andersson
Fredrik Sjögren, PhD at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Lars Andersson

Techies prevents women

Published: 27 March 2015

New research at Luleå University of Technology shows that the gender imbalance in information and communication technology is maintained through a computer nerd ideal. In addition, the formal qualifications required to act against sex discrimination is in fact preserving it.

- It is very difficult for women to be assigned the role of techies - an ideal that still is dominant in parts of the industry. The skills needed in organizations that are linked to identity, are often gendered, says Fredrik Sjögren, PhD at Luleå University of Technology.

Maintains current regime

In his doctoral thesis, Techno Science, Gender and Value, Fredrik Sjögren investigated four research organizations in the information and communications technology (ICT). His study shows that concepts such as competence, individualism and merokrati (skills, qualifications, skills and abilities that determine an individual's status), contrary to the original purpose to combat sex discrimination, rather conceals gender norms and maintains the prevailing order.

- And that's problematic. If identities that are gendered are central to setting up research projects and awarded research grants, it means that some have much greater access to the research, says Fredrik Sjögren, who has proposed measures that can improve equality in engineering science.

- I think it's good to formalize the recruitment process and advertise the services instead of hiring within their social networks. It is also important to work with these issues on the education side and highlight the standards which actually exists within the organizations, he says.

Heavily male-dominated industry

The heavily male-dominated sector has long called for a review of the formal structures and processes that can be improved with the hope of attracting more women to the field of activity.

- So when I got the chance to study the organizations I wanted to look at how normative notions of gender and Engineering Sciences operate within them, says Fredrik Sjögren and continues.

- It is not enough to focus only on how it looks in school and college, or to create clearer recruitment procedures. We also need to understand how, for example, expertise and technology gets specific meanings within organizations, depending on how they relate to normative notions of gender.