Structural Context and Influencing Factors

Structural Context and Influencing Factors

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5860-8.ch006
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Structural context and influencing factors form another layer of the STEMcell Model, interacting with the cultural and social contexts and the individual core. Key structural factors identified in the literature are industry branding, information, access, education, support mechanism, and government policies. These traditionally identified factors are explored critically in relation to the STEMcell Model. A key conclusion drawn in this chapter is that the structural factors are not significant today and, consequently, interventions to address them have had minimal effects. It is argued that individual interest is the greatest driver; however, interest in STEM fields does not necessarily translate into choosing STEM as a career, as individuals have competing interests and motives. In addition, some warnings are issued against using attraction methods that lead to false or misleading expectations. An overall conclusion is that in a rapidly changing world perhaps what we need are less solutions imposed from above and more solutions grown from below.
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You study Medicine to become a doctor to help people when they are ill. You study Law to become a barrister to help people navigate the law. You study IT to ??? to ??? That is the crux of the issue. – Sonja Bernhardt (2005)



The body of women in technology research has recurring themes of several structural factors that influence female participation in computing, often deterring them from choosing future technology education or careers in IT (Adya & Kaiser, 2005, 2006; Castano & Webster, 2011; Ashcraft, Eger & Friend, 2012).

These issues are reinforced by comments made by Telle Whitney, CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, in her introduction to the ABI Solutions To Recruit Technical Women report (Simard & Gammal, 2012): “The barriers facing women as they strive to enter the computing field often persist throughout their careers and affect their advancement… This resource is Part 1 in a series of reports focused on solutions companies can employ to improve the recruitment, retention, and advancement of technical women… These solutions are not intended as one-offs for companies to pick and choose from, but an ‘arsenal’ that companies should bundle together and deploy broadly to achieve maximum impact. Companies wishing to benefit from gender diversity need integrated strategies on the recruitment, retention, and advancement of technical women through the highest levels of the organization. We do not prescribe a particular path to success but instead suggest that each company start by looking at the numbers, taking stock of where its challenges are most acute and then developing a coherent strategy that best addresses its particular culture given available resources. Rather than relying on ad hoc efforts, success depends largely on the development of an integrated array of programs and tactics to address each company’s particular challenges as it seeks to recruit, retain and advance women.”

This chapter explores the structural factors raised in past research such as that report. The issues are summarized in visual form in Figure 1, as the Structural component of the STEMcell Model.

Figure 1.

Structural breakdown: structural factors influencing female participation in IT


The structural influencing factors shown in Figure 1 were identified from the literature sources shown in Table 1. These factors are dissected below and provide input to the recommendations presented in Chapter Eleven.

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