Exploration into the lack of representation of women in the technology industry


   School of Built Environment, Engineering and Computing

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  Prof Antony Bryant, Dr Jackie Campbell  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Project Highlights:

1.      Investigate and characterize the historical influences that have led to the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry.

2.      Examine the influence the lack of female representation in the tech industry has had on society.

3.      Explore and understand the impact or lack of impact of initiatives intended to improve the representation of women in technology.

4.      Co-design initiatives to improve the situation, working alongside key stakeholders.

In mid-2021, Steve Shirley posed the question “The accepted view of gender equality seems to be that leaders determine who become the leaders of the future. So why in a female dominated company that scaled did the feminine bias get lost?” With her encouragement and support Professor Bryant undertook a research project to investigate this question, interviewing several of her former colleagues. In brief, he found that Steve was asking the wrong question. The real question to ask is “Given the continued and widespread forces that continually prevent or undermine the role of women as creative participants in all aspects of contemporary life: How did F International manage to scale up, make its mark, and last for as long as it did, before succumbing to the exigencies of male-dominated commercial existence?”

The plan now is to build upon the initial research project, which although small-scale, has significant implications for management practices and the many and varied initiatives aimed at rectifying this imbalance. Moreover, similar concerns apply to initiatives to correct other inequalities such as race/ethnicity, and various disabilities. It must, however, be noted that these latter can collectively be referred to as focusing on specific minorities; whereas the male/female imbalance impacts upon the majority, women outnumber men.

Women currently represent around 20% of the working population in technology, this is relatively constant worldwide and has not improved despite initiatives.

Aims:

To gain an in-depth understanding of the influences affecting females whilst considering their careers in technology throughout their career journey. The project is informed by sociological theoretical frameworks.

Research Questions:

1.      How do women perceive the field of technology as a career option and how did those working in the industry negotiate this? What were their influences and practices?

2. How does the industry perceive and address the lack of minorities in the industry?

3. How has this lack of representation shaped the industry and technology?

4. What are the successful and unsuccessful initiatives to support women in gaining access to the industry. Are there lessons to be learnt here?


Computer Science (8) Sociology (32)

References

Criado Perez, C. (2020).Invisible Women: the Sunday Times number one bestseller exposing the gender bias women face every day. Chatto & Windus: London.European Commission of trust for AI (2022) A Europe fit for the digital age. [online] Available at: [Accessed 05/08/2022].
Fairfield, J. and Shtein, H. (2014). Big Data, Big Problems: Emerging issues in the Ethics of Data Science and Journalism. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 29:38-51. Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Hicks, M. (2018) Programmed Inequality. How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing. The MIT Press: Cambridge MA.
Hare, S. (2022). Technology is not neutral, A short guide to technology ethics London Publishing Partnership.
Jungherr, A. (2014). "Twitter in politics: a comprehensive literature review." Available at SSRN 2402443 (2014).
Kranzberg, M. (1995). Technology and History: ‘Kranzbergs laws’. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 15(1), 5-13.
Ncwit, 2016. Women in Tech: The Facts (2016 Update). [online] Available from: [Accessed 05/08/2022
O’Neil, C. (2016). Weapons of Math Destruction, How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. Penguin Books.
Pacey, A. (1983). The Culture of Technology. Oxford, Basil Blackwell.
Reuters (2018) Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women. [online] Available from: [Accessed 05/08/2022].
Rock, D., Grant, H. and Grey, J., (2016). Diverse teams feel less comfortable—and that’s why they perform better. Harvard Business Review, 95(9), p.22. [online] Available from:< http://www.purplebeach.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/HBR_diverseteamsfeellesscomfortable-2.pdf> [Accessed 05/08/2022].
Sandberg, S. (2015) Lean in, Women, work and the will the lead. Penguin. UK.
Shirley, S. 2019. Let It Go: My Extraordinary Story - From Refugee to Entrepreneur to Philanthropist. London: Penguin.
White, S. (2021) Women in tech statistics: The hard truths of an uphill battle. CIO. [online] Available from:< https://www.cio.com/article/201905/women-in-tech-statistics-the-hard-truths-of-an-uphill-battle.html> [Accessed 05/08/2022].
Wajcman, J. (1991) Feminism confronts technology Judy Wajcman. Polity Press.

 About the Project