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Title: Gender and careers in Information Technology : a qualitative study
Author: Jelley, Robyn
ISNI:       0000 0004 9354 1155
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2019
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This research sought to investigate why, despite growing demands for IT professionals and a growing emphasis on the benefits of diversity to companies and society, women remain underrepresented in the UK IT industry. Optimistic narratives had suggested contemporary career forms and characteristics of knowledge work, supported by technological developments and flexible working policies, would provide women with greater opportunities to participate in the IT industry - yet the disparity remains. This study draws on an original qualitative data set of 62 narrative career history interviews with male and female IT workers and 20 interviews with company and stakeholder representatives. It examines how gender interacts with other personal characteristics, occupational features, organisation dynamics and socio-cultural and institutional factors to form different career constraints for individual women and men in the IT industry at key stages over the life course. This research provides insights that help to understand the persistence of female underrepresentation in IT. The data reveals how the viability of paths of entry previously used by women to access IT careers is diminishing. It also demonstrated how gender and motherhood interact with organisational structures and the hybrid nature of careers to constrain female careers. Women and mothers are found to still suffer disadvantage in relation to traditional elements of career, but also in relation to the contemporary elements of career so optimistically regarded. Characteristics of constant change and informality and the endurance of masculine 'ideal worker' norms are highlighted as particularly problematic. This study also contends that efforts made by IT companies to redress the gender imbalance represent little more than half-hearted rhetoric. Gender initiatives privilege a few women and reinforce the masculine hierarchy while undermining calls for broader systemic changes. In an extension to existing critiques of the contemporary careers literature, this research finds that distinctions between organisational careers and careers crossing organisational boundaries are becoming less apparent as the sector is increasingly characterised by project-based work. Supporting calls to bring boundaries back in, this study has underlined the need for the reconceptualisation of female career constraints to a more informative gendered career boundaries approach. This allows for research to consider variances in boundary salience and permeability, creating nuanced consideration of the interaction between agency and context in the formation of careers, thus providing a more useful perspective for understanding contemporary careers of both men and women.
Supervisor: Mcbride, Anne ; Tavora, Isabel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: narrative ; female underrepresentation ; life history ; motherhood ; boundaries ; computing ; gender specific initiatives ; leaky pipeline ; top talent ; professional ; contemporary careers ; feminist ; gender ; careers ; protean ; boundaryless ; IT ; women ; Information Technology