Gender Segregation and ICT: An Indo-British Comparison

Gender Segregation and ICT: An Indo-British Comparison

Sunrita Dhar-Bhattacharjee (University of Salford, UK) and Haifa Takruri-Rizk (University of Salford, UK)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/jep.2011010104
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Abstract

Gender segregation in science, engineering, construction, technology (SECT) is a persistent feature, both in India and the UK. Although culturally the two countries differ, under-representation of women in SECT is widespread and a cause for general apprehension, and in recent years, this has gained recognition in the study of gender, work, and family. In this paper, the authors discuss findings of a comparative study undertaken between India and Britain in the ICT sector. Using 27 interviews with ICT professionals in the two countries, the authors discuss views on ICT education, recruitment, and employment practices, work-life balance, changing gender relations, opportunities for progression, and retention in the two countries. The authors take into consideration women’s role in power and politics and how the “public” and “private” patriarchy shapes women’s position in the labour market, with an essential backdrop of “patrifocality” in the Indian context.
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Introduction

In the UK, historically, science, engineering and technology did not rank very highly as an occupation and there are several explanations. In the mid 1960s, scientists and engineers were ranked below dentists, university lecturers, company directors, solicitors and only just above primary- school teachers, unlike in India where an engineering degree undoubtedly enhances social status and increases chances of employability. More recently, India’s IT industry has been growing at a very fast pace with the adoption of economic liberalization policies and emerging as the ‘most watched test of global capitalism’. Information communication technology (ICT) driven growth and development in India has been observed to have skipped the middle stages of traditional economic development models and ‘leapfrogged’ to technology driven stages of economic development. Yet, a gendered occupational structure in science, engineering, construction and technology (SECT) is very much predominant, like the UK. A gendered occupational structure is often assumed to exist due to social inequality and gender equality is measured by the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM). It is generally assumed or implied that greater empowerment of women would reduce gender segregation. But, there are exceptions; in countries where the degree of women’s empowerment is greater, the level of gender segregation is also greater. Interestingly, Sweden with a higher GEM also has higher gender segregation than Japan with a lower GEM.

In this paper, we focus on the ‘universalistic theorisations’ and ‘particularistic explanations’ to study women’s position of employment in SECT, with a focus on the ICT sector. We look at the role of social and labour market policy in the two countries, how this shapes gender relations and the modification needed to develop an equitable gender division of labour in ICT. We explore the working practices and working cultures of IT companies as a factor in causing the under representation of women engineers in terms of recruitment, progression and retention.

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