The Cross-Cultural Dimension of Gender and Information Technology

The Cross-Cultural Dimension of Gender and Information Technology

Haiyan Huang (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-87828-991-9.ch113
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Abstract

The underrepresentation of women in the information technology (IT) sector has been widely studied in the contexts of western countries such as North American and Western European countries. These studies indicate that the underrepresentation of women in the IT sector is unveiled in multiple perspectives, including IT access, the development, adoption and use of IT, IT education, and the IT workforce in general and within the IT workforce structure itself (e.g., different levels of IT positions) (Cooper & Weaver, 2003; Gürer & Camp, 2002; Hartzel, 2003; Klein, Jiang & Tesch, 2002; Margolis & Fisher, 2002; Rommes, 2002; Trauth, 2002; von Hellens, Neilsen, & Beekhuyzen, 2001; Webster, 1996). Why is it important to study issues related to gender and information technology? First, it is argued that the information technology sector should value and leverage all kinds of diversity (including gender diversity as one dimension) to enhance productivity, to facilitate IT innovation, and to develop IT for a wide variety of people (Avgerou, 2002; Roberts, 2003; Trauth, Huang, Morgan, Quesenberry, & Yeo, 2006). Second, it is also argued that women’s underrepresentation in and exclusion from information technology can be attributed to power and socio-cultural reproduction of inequality through technology development and use, and the historically socialconstruction of technology fields as “masculine” domains, which result in a gendered digital divide (Cockburn, 1985; Kvasny & Trauth, 2002; Kvasny & Truex, 2001; Wajcman, 1991, 2004; Woodfield, 2000). Ignorance or failure to address issues related to gender and IT will further marginalize women’s participation in future economic and social development, and will endanger social equality and social welfare in general (Kvasny & Trauth, 2002). A significant trend of the contemporary information technology industry is towards globalization, which is manifested through a variety of established practices such as IT offshore outsourcing, global software development, and innovation through global R&D (research & design) collaboration (Sahay, Nicholson, & Krishna, 2003; Walsham, 2000, 2001, 2002). Such a globalization trend of the IT industry and market has put forward new challenges to gender and IT research, to incorporate the cross-cultural dimension. Similar to the rationale for studying gender and IT in developed countries (leveraging diversity and improving social inclusion), Hafkin and Taggart (2001) argued that it is imperative to examine the cultural factors while studying gender and IT in developing countries

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