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Software development: a (continuing) bastion of white, heterosexual masculinity?

Project Description

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project based in the School of Management under the supervision of Dr Farooq Mughal (https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/persons/farooq-mughal), Dr Yasin Rofcanin (https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/persons/yasin-rofcanin) and Professor Nancy Harding (https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/persons/nancy-harding).


Software development is fundamental to what is being called ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Software underpins every aspect of contemporary and emerging technologies. There is increasing evidence that algorithms reflect the identities of their producers, and are introducing bias in recruitment and selection, policing, and perhaps in other areas in ways that are unanticipated. That the profession of software development is dominated by white men, often described as ‘geeks’, is therefore of great concern, as the world being created in the image of these creators could be very narrow indeed. There is a great deal of evidence of the dearth of women in software development, and limited but not sufficient understanding about how and why women are deterred from entering the profession, while those who get over the barriers to women’s entry leave the profession or move into management. The Institute of Coding, led by the University of Bath, is leading the way to tackling the problem of lack of gender diversity through a network of training programmes, many of which are aimed at women. However, it is necessary to develop better understanding of what deters women from remaining in the profession if this training is to have longer term success.

Further, there is very little evidence of other diversity issues, such as sexualities, ethnicities, class, age, etc. This project will therefore aim to:

- explore diversity in its broader sense in software development;
- identify areas where there is a need for action in order to improve the representation of under-represented groups;
- identify how and why people from under-represented groups are unable to enter into and develop successful careers as software developers.

This dissertation will adopt a mixed-methods approach. The quantitative section of it will explore the mechanisms and boundary conditions of diversity in software development and will adopt a multi-level regression approach. Employees from different companies in software development will be selected to constitute the sample of our study. Due to the nested structure of data, survey results will be evaluated using multi-level regression perspective. Full training and support will be offered to help the successful applicant develop these skills.

The qualitative stage of the study will involve:

a) an autoethnographic study of learning how to write software, to identify ways in which some groups may be deterred by various forms of bias
b) an ethnographic study of a software development company to analyse the culture and how it influences participation;
c) a series of interviews to develop deeper and broader understanding of software development as a potentially diverse profession.


Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant discipline.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form: https://samis.bath.ac.uk/urd/sits.urd/run/siw_ipp_lgn.login?process=siw_ipp_app&code1=RDUMN-FP01&code2=0014

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will be considered for a University studentship, which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support grant of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 in 2019-20) for a period of up to 4 years. Limited funding opportunities for outstanding Overseas candidates may be available. Some School of Management studentships require recipients to contribute annually up to a maximum of 133 hours of seminar-based teaching and assessment in years 2, 3 and 4 of study (students will not be expected to give lectures).

How good is research at University of Bath in Business and Management Studies?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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