Theorizing Gender and Information Technology Research

Theorizing Gender and Information Technology Research

Eileen M. Trauth (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-87828-991-9.ch153
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Abstract

A fundamental consideration when attempting to understand the complex factors leading to the underrepresentation of women in IT is the choice and use of theory. Theories about women and their relationships to information technology and the IT profession guide the conceptualization of the research problem, the methods of data collection, the basis for analysis, and the conclusions that are drawn. However, a criticism of gender and IT research is that the topic of gender and IT is currently undertheorized (Adam, Howcroft, & Richardson, 2001, 2004). This undertheorization takes on several different forms. First, there are cases in which there is no theory in evidence to guide the conceptualization of the research project or to inform the data collection and analysis. Rather, the focus is typically on compiling and representing statistical data regarding the differences between men and women with respect to technology adoption, use or involvement in the IT profession. This form of undertheorization can be labeled pre-theoretical research. Second, other research, while not explicitly articulating a particular theory, nevertheless, is guided by a theory-in-use. For example, quite often a theory of inherent differences between males’ and females’ relationships to IT is used implicitly to guide data collection and analysis. This form of undertheorization can be labeled implicit-theoretical research. This approach is considered to be a type of undertheorization in that the lack of explicit discussion of a theory makes it difficult for others to discuss, challenge or extend the research. Finally, the body of research that reflects explicit theory-in-use has been shown to have gaps in the theoretical landscape (Trauth, 2002). That is, an argument has been made that current theories about gender and IT do not fully account for the variation in men’s and women’s relationships to information technology and the IT field. This form of undertheorization can be labeled insufficient-theoretical research. It is this third condition that is addressed in this article: the need for new theoretical insights to guide our effort to understand the underrepresentation of women in the IT profession.

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