Absent Women: Research on Gender Relations in IT Education Mediated by Swedish Newspapers

Absent Women: Research on Gender Relations in IT Education Mediated by Swedish Newspapers

Martha Blomqvist (Uppsala University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-813-5.ch008
OnDemand PDF Download:


This chapter presents a study on the use of research based information on gender and IT education disseminated by Swedish newspapers between 1994 and 2004. The predominant content of the newspaper articles concerns the lack of women, and refers mostly to reports presenting statistics. A gender-blind discourse is almost nonexistent in the articles, meaning that the small proportion of women in IT education on the whole is understood as a problem. A masculinity-connoted discourse – assuming a close relationship between masculinity and technology – and a feminized discourse – based on the idea that women have qualities and skills important in the area of IT – are both given a significant voice, so that the link between masculinity and technology is strengthened and that a gender dichotomy is confirmed. However, a differentiated discourse, which acknowledges gender variations among women as well as men, has had little impact in the newspapers.
Chapter Preview


Some ten years ago, somewhat surprisingly to most politicians, gender researchers, and educators, the proportion of women studying IT started to decrease. The decline started several years before the dot.com crisis, which therefore cannot explain it, and it occurred at about the same time in several countries in Western Europe (Valenduc et al., 2004)1. Different interpretations of the decline have been suggested, e.g. that young women find IT boring and are not interested in training for an IT job, or that young women believe that women are treated badly in the sector and therefore do not want to be part of it.

Media as Constructers of Social Reality

Television and daily newspapers are two of the main sources of information about the IT sector available to most people outside the sector. They do not, however, innocently reflect some kind of reality, but are influential producers of social reality, such as gender relations. Like all of us, the media participate in the everyday business of doing gender. The contributions of newspapers and television journalists, however, are the most widely spread, and their constructions of gender thus have an impact on a larger public. Television, making use of pictures as well as sound, is of course a more powerful medium than newspapers. Though younger persons read newspapers less often than elderly persons do, there is reason to believe that the traditional newspapers do have an influence also on young women.2

In order to discover what kind of information is disseminated about the ICT sector, the project Gender relations and working conditions in the ICT sector3 has conducted a systematic analysis of contents of Swedish newspaper articles between 1994 and 2004 as they discuss the ICT sector and women.


The Newspapers

Four Swedish national newspapers were selected for the analysis: Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), Dagens Nyheter (DN), Aftonbladet (AB) and Computer Sweden (CS). Two of the newspapers – SvD and DN – are traditional morning papers, though both have lately changed to a tabloid format. AB, a traditional tabloid, used to be an evening paper, but is now published in the morning. CS is a newspaper explicitly covering IT-related information and is published three times a week. DN is politically liberal, SvD is politically conservative, AB is social democratic and CS is ‘politically neutral’. On the whole, SvD is the morning paper preferred by conservatives, DN has readers all over the political spectrum, while AB is the evening paper preferred by social democrats.4 The political leanings of these newspapers have an impact mainly on the editorial page; the news desks of the papers make a point of being autonomous.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Madeleine Cæsar
Shirley Booth, Sara Goodman, Gill Kirkup
Chapter 1
Inger Boivie
This chapter explores aspects of the gendering of computer science and IT, related to epistemological issues of what computing is and what type of... Sample PDF
Women, Men and Programming : Knowledge, Metaphors and Masculinity
Chapter 2
Ulf Mellström
This chapter investigates how and why computer science in Malaysia is dominated by women. Drawing on recent critical interventions in gender and... Sample PDF
New Gender Relations in the Transforming IT-Industry of Malaysia
Chapter 3
Eva Maria Hoffmann
In Afghanistan, the development of information technology (IT) as an industry and an educational field is still quite young, but this provides the... Sample PDF
Women in Computer Science in Afghanistan
Chapter 4
Johanna Sefyrin
In information technology (IT) design it is essential to develop rich and nuanced understandings of messy design realities. In this chapter Karen... Sample PDF
"For me it doesn't matter where I put my information": Enactments of Agency, Mutual Learning, and Gender in IT Design
Chapter 5
Christina Mörtberg, Pirjo Elovaara
The Swedish public sector is involved in an overwhelming change process aiming towards creating a good-service society based on information... Sample PDF
Attaching People and Technology: Between E and Government
Chapter 6
Marie Griffiths, Helen Richardson
The trend for women to be severely under-represented in the UK ICT (information and communication technology) sector persists. Girls continue, year... Sample PDF
Against All Odds, from All-Girls Schools to All-Boys Workplaces: Women’s Unsuspecting Trajectory Into the UK ICT Sector
Chapter 7
Agneta Gulz, Magnus Haake
This chapter explores motivational and cognitive effects of more neutral or androgynous-looking versus more feminine-looking and masculine-looking... Sample PDF
Challenging Gender Stereotypes Using Virtual Pedagogical Characters
Chapter 8
Martha Blomqvist
This chapter presents a study on the use of research based information on gender and IT education disseminated by Swedish newspapers between 1994... Sample PDF
Absent Women: Research on Gender Relations in IT Education Mediated by Swedish Newspapers
Chapter 9
Els Rommes
The aim of this chapter is to explore to what extent heteronormativity, the norm that man and woman are attracted to each other because of their... Sample PDF
Heteronormativity Revisited: Adolescents’ Educational Choices, Sexuality and Soaps
Chapter 10
Shirley Booth, Eva Wigforss
The chapter tells of two women with low educational qualifications who embark on a journey into higher education by taking a distance course to... Sample PDF
Approaching Higher Education: A Life-World Story of Home-Places, Work-Places and Learn-Places
Chapter 11
Annika Bergviken Rensfeldt, Sandra Riomar
This chapter problematizes how gender is constructed and used in the arguments of flexible distance education. By using a gender and space analysis... Sample PDF
Gendered Distance Education Spaces: “Keeping Women in Place”?
Chapter 12
Minna Salminen-Karlsson
In this study of computer courses in municipal adult education, 173 questionnaires from 10 Swedish adult education centres with students taking a... Sample PDF
Computer Courses in Adult Education in a Gender Perspective
Chapter 13
Gill Kirkup
This chapter examines the access women have had historically to engage in knowledge production as university scholars or students. It discusses the... Sample PDF
Gendered Knowledge Production in Universities in a Web 2.0 World
Chapter 14
Gwyneth Hughes
Collaborative learning online is increasingly popular and the interaction between learners is documented and discussed, but gender is largely absent... Sample PDF
Queen Bees, Workers and Drones : Gender Performance in Virtual Learning Groups
Chapter 15
Gill Kirkup, Sigrid Schmitz, Erna Kotkamp, Els Rommes, Aino-Maija Hiltunen
This chapter argues that the future development of European e-learning needs to be informed by gender theory, and feminist and other critical... Sample PDF
Towards a Feminist Manifesto for e-Learning: Principles to Inform Practices*
About the Contributors