Gender and Technology. The “Female Factor” in Software Design

Master's Thesis, 2011

131 Pages, Grade: Excellent (A) (Sehr gut)


Table of Contents

Table of Figures

List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction
1.1 Purpose and Research Questions
1.2 Motivation
1.3 Disposition
1.4 Delimitations and Definitions
1.4.1 Feminism
1.4.2 Gender
1.4.3 Science & Technology

2. The Relevance of Gender for Technology Design
2.1 Women - A Neglected Target Group
2.2 Social and Economic Benefits of Gender Awareness
2.2.1 A Question of Fairness and Equality
2.2.2 Financial Perspectives

3. The Gendered Nature of Technology
3.1 Feminist Lenses
3.1.1 Science and Technology – Social Phenomena
3.1.2 Technology and Masculinity
3.1.3 Hidden From History
3.1.4 Approaches to Solving the ‘Women-Technology-Dilemma’
3.2 A Closer Look at Information Technology
3.2.1 What makes IT Special?
3.2.2 Gender and Information Technology
3.2.3 The Absence of Women in IT

4. Towards Gender Awareness in Software Design
4.1 Gendered by Design?
4.1.1 A Balance of Perspectives
4.1.2 Masculinity in the Design Process
4.2 Building a Gender Aware Organization
4.2.1 Management Commitment and Culture
4.2.2 Gender Workshops and Team Development
4.3 Implementing a Gender Aware Design Framework
4.3.1 ‘As-Is’ Analysis
4.3.2 New Setting

5. Reality Check: Gender and the Software Industry
5.1 Interview Framework
5.2 Profiles / Case Studies
5.2.1 Anja, 26 Years - User Interface Designer
5.2.2 Christa, 45 Years – Software Product Owner
5.2.3 Maria, 46 Years - Design Consultant and Trainer
5.2.4 Barbara, 47 Years - User Experience Designer
5.3 Interview Results
5.3.1 Educational and Professional Development
5.3.2 Organizational Recommendations
5.3.3 ‘From Woman to Woman’

6. Summary and Conclusions
6.1 Matching Theory and Practice
6.2 Options for Further Research


Guiding Questions for Narrative Reflections


In the era of user-centered design several scholars have started to take a closer look at gender as one of the decisive factors for successful innovation. While technology, and specifically information technology (IT), has become the backbone of almost all industries and a key driver for innovation, women are still largely absent from these fields. They are heavily underrepresented as technology designers and neglected as autonomous users with individual needs. This thesis sets out to demonstrate the importance of gender for technology design; it analyzes the reasons for the lack of women in technology using a feminist perspective, and proposes a number of possible approaches how gender awareness could be increased in IT with a special focus on the organizational aspects of business software design. The findings are based on an in-depth literature review and are validated by means of several case studies of female IT professionals in the global software industry.

The demographic situation in the 21st century as well as the respective literature and research provide clear evidence of the social and economic benefits of increasing the ‘female factor’ in technology design. Women are a key – and heavily underused - driver for innovation, organizational performance and financial success in most companies. Yet, when analyzing the gendered nature of technology it became clear that its inherent masculinity has to a large extent been responsible for the absence and marginalization of women from IT until today. Current approaches to overcome the ‘women-technology-dilemma’ are often either seeking to help women adapt to the male norm or are over-emphasizing feminine connotated values for technology design. The findings in this thesis underline the social constructivist perspective that neither technology nor gender can be taken as fixed and given but are cultural processes subject to negotiations, contestations and transformation. As a consequence, one of the most important prerequisites for the software industry to make sure the results of their application design fit with the needs of a variety of stakeholders, including female users, is the establishment of a gender aware organizational mindset and a respective design framework using gender as a ‘lens’ and apply it every time new applications are being planned and implemented.

Table of Figures

Figure 1: Boy or Girl – Who Cares?

Figure 2: The Restricted and General Meaning of Technology

Figure 3: Science versus Technology

Figure 4: Home Automation – A One-Dimensional Perspective

Figure 5: Baby Jogger – Original User Invention and Commercial Product

Figure 6: 33% of Female ‘Late Majority’ Could Become ‘Innovators’

Figure 7: A Masculine Culture of Technology

Figure 8: Elderly Care Robot – Brave New World !?

Figure 9: Underestimated Talents

Figure 10: Digital City of Amsterdam – A Virtual World for the Tech Savvy

Figure 11: A View to Jones Beach – Gendered Access Restrictions

Figure 12: ‘Lady Edison’ - Beulah Louise Henry

Figure 13: Corporate Attitude

Figure 14: Excerpt from ‘Cyborg Manifesto’

Figure 15: EU Campaign ‘Cyberellas are IT’

Figure 16: ‘Gender Asbestos’

Figure 17: The Vicious Circle of Imbalance in IT Education and Design

Figure 18: ‘Gamification’ – The Future of Business Software?

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1. Introduction

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

Nathaniel Branden

This thesis is about gender awareness in technology design with a specific focus on IT and software applications. The problem background that inspired me to choose this subject is twofold:

Firstly, IT has become the backbone of almost all industries and is one of the most important drivers for innovation in the Western world (see e.g. European Commission 2011a; BMBF 2010; European Union 2010; BMWi 2007). Beyond its economic impact, IT is also one of the forces shaping society and the life of most individuals in the industrialized nations in an increasing fashion. Yet, in contrast to this pivotal role for (wo)mankind, women are still largely absent from technology and IT design and thus mainly excluded from shaping these new realities which I feel is problematic both from an democratic angle and with regard to the inevitably one-dimensional masculine perspective which gets reflected in the products. Given the fact that the success of an innovation depends upon its adoption by customers in the market (see e.g. Schumpeter [1934] 1982), and considering the role of users as key actors in the diffusion and acceptance of new technologies as pointed out by Eric von Hippel (1988) it is also an economic necessity to analyze and incorporate the needs of the major users groups when developing new technological solutions. Yet, while the number of women as autonomous customers of technology has significantly increased over the last decade their specific needs as users are still frequently neglected. Gender differences have been largely disregarded in technology research, design and innovation leading to products that often do not meet the needs of female target groups. A vivid example for this “gender blindness” in technology design mentioned by Schraudner/Lukoschat (2006, 3) is the case of early speech recognition systems in cars which did not work for most female voices. Annoying, but not perilous – but what about technology used in surgeries which has not been tested on female organisms, or airbag systems designed only for male bodies as the norm killing rather than protecting children and smaller women in the case of an accident, as pointed out by Rosser (2006, 15)?

And secondly, despite the surprisingly large body of – mainly feminist – literature on the topic of gender in the context of science and technology, research with regard to gender and ICT, and specifically relative to gender and software application design is scarce (see Bath et al. 2008, 828; Vendramin et al. 2001, 80; Wilson 2001, 355f). Working for a large global provider of standardized business software I am interested in figuring out whether gender aspects actually play a role in the organizational processes steering the design of these applications being used by millions of men and women on a daily basis in their jobs and businesses, and to what extent female IT professionals are integrated and can contribute to these processes.

1.1 Purpose and Research Questions

In the era of user-centered design some scholars have recently started to consider gender as one of the decisive factors for successful product design and innovation – both with regard to women as creators and as consumers (see e.g. Schraudner/Lukoschat 2006).

One key point of departure and interest is the wide-ranging discussion on the topic of gender and technology. There is a large and heterogeneous body of research and abundant literature including many publications on the relationship of Women and IT. One of the overarching themes is the gendered character of technology which is accused of having excluded women from becoming creators and designers of technology and for the masculine notion of technical artifacts and products which often do not reflect the requirements and preferences of female users. As described above, information technologies have an increasing impact on our daily lives. Sefyrin (2010a, 2) argues that IT design is shaping organizational, social and cultural practices and realities enabling certain activities while hampering others. Concerning the impact of IT on its users and vice versa, as discussed amongst others by Oudshoorn/Pinch (2003) and Oudshoorn et al. (2004), she claims that “the design of information technology is also the design of users […] but users also configure IT”. As a consequence, IT design is not neutral but has clear organizational and social consequences. In addition, designers and innovators of technological devices and applications often unconsciously construct representations of targeted users considering their own preferences and skills to be representative of those of the future users. These constructs serve as the basis for the production of technology scenarios which then reflect the interest and skills of their creators – mainly young, middle-class men – and exclude women and other groups of under-represented users (see e.g. Rommes 2006). Given the fact that this masculine focus criticized by feminist scholars is sometimes implicitly applied even if women do form a major part of the development team it becomes absolutely clear that specific attention needs to be paid to the systematic consideration of gender aspects in technology design (Rommes et al. 2001).

Based on this problem background, and regarding the lack of related research in the area of business software design, I would like to explore the following questions in this thesis:

1. Why does gender play an important role for technology design in the 21st century?
2. Why can technology, and specifically IT, be referred to as ‘gendered’? What are indicators for a masculine notion, and which approaches exist to overcome the ‘women-technology dilemma’?
3. What are issues and potential approaches to achieving a greater level of gender awareness in the organization of software design and to involving more diverse and ‘female’ perspectives?
4. Are the gender issues explored in the theoretical part of this thesis reflected in the personal ‘technology history’ of female IT professionals, and to what extent is gender awareness integrated in the software industry today?

1.2 Motivation

As a woman, grown up in the 1970s and 1980s in Germany, I have benefitted largely from the continuous efforts generations of dauntless and fierce individuals – including my mother – have made to improve the situation of women, especially in the Western world. Most industrialized nations have managed to climb the first steps of Maslow’s ‘pyramid of needs’ with regard to women’s rights (see Maslow 1943). Thanks to these courageous ladies we can now take scientific education, voting rights, birth control, and the right to lead a self-determined life generally for granted. Besides the discussion around further social improvements, like e.g. more financial and organizational support for mothers, my generation is currently fighting for the next steps to be taken towards more respect, equality and self actualization in the working environment. These include topics like equal pay and career development, a fair share of women in leadership positions, and measures for a better work-life-balance.

With technology, and specifically IT, playing a key role in public and private life Wajcman’s (2009, 150) assessment that “women’s identities, needs and priorities are configured together with digital technologies” is a fundamental finding which clearly points to the importance of women’s involvement in the process of IT design. I absolutely agree with her statement (ibid.) that “Drawing more women into design […] is not only an equal opportunity issue, but is also crucially about how the world we live in is shaped, and for whom.”

I am grateful to my mother for having broadened my mind on the topic of feminism and women’s rights early on and to my employer SAP AG for providing me with the opportunity to participate in this MBA Program focusing on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I am glad to have been given the possibility to combine related class content, e.g. on user-driven design, with new learning on feminist theories of technology and gender-awareness in product design, and to discuss the outcomes with some female IT professionals testing them against the realities in the organization of the development and design processes in the global software industry. With this I hope to be able to contribute a little piece to the big picture of understanding gender equality in the context of IT.

1.3 Disposition

This thesis is built up of six chapters. In the Introduction, I present the problem background, motivation, purpose and research questions along with the delimitations and a comprehensive overview of the core concepts of feminism, gender and science & technology as a basis for the further analysis, understanding and discussion in the text.

The following chapter two, The Relevance of Gender for Technology Design, points to the significance of increasing gender awareness in the context of technology research, design and development. I discuss recent literature and findings concerning the absence of women as important stakeholders of technology and delineate the social and economic importance of including gender as a key aspect into these processes.

Chapter three, The Gendered Nature of Technology, is the key chapter of this thesis. Here I take a closer look at the findings of – mainly European and American authors – over the last decades on how technology is gendered and why women are still largely underrepresented as creators & designers and neglected as users & consumers of technology using a feminist perspective. After discussing some of the most prominent feminist approaches to overcoming the women-technology gap, I specifically look into the field of gender relations in the context of Information Technology.

Chapter four, Towards Gender Awareness in Software Design, builds on these findings. I discuss additional literature and elaborate on issues and potential approaches to mitigate the phenomenon of gender blindness in the organization of IT design and to increase the ‘female factor’ in the creation of software applications.

In chapter five, Reality Check: Gender and the Software Industry, I introduce four case studies of female IT professionals. After addressing their personal ‘technology history’ I look at the extent to which gender awareness has been integrated in the organizational processes and teams steering the design of business software based on their individual experiences and share their recommendations for companies and women in the industry.

Chapter six, Summary and Conclusions, subsumes the theoretical and practical findings on how IT companies could implement ‘gendered lenses’ in order to increase the ‘female factor’ in their design processes and provides an outlook on potential further research questions.

1.4 Delimitations and Definitions

The focus of this thesis is on the intersection of engineering and technology design, gender, and feminist critiques of science and technology concentrating on the relation of women and technology, specifically in the IT and software industry. Due to the large and heterogeneous body of research in each of these areas which needs to be reviewed and analyzed in order to define potential approaches towards more gender awareness in IT design the emphasis of my work clearly lies on the literature analysis, followed by the evaluation and discussion of potential ways to improve the situation. In doing so, I will primarily look at the situation in the Western, First World countries. The respective findings will be enhanced and verified based on the case studies of a small group of female software engineers and designers. For this empirical portion, my work is delimitated by the individual perspectives, histories and experiences of these women.

Some of the major concepts which form the basis of this work are not only complex but also dealing with “fluid and somewhat contentious terms” (Fox et al. 2006, 5). In order to generate a joint level of understanding and avoid ambiguity as much as possible, I will provide an overview and explanation of several of these domains, list some of the key points of criticism and discussion, and define my personal interpretation and usage below.

1.4.1 Feminism

The term ‘feminism’ defies easy definition as it embraces a multiplicity of perspectives. In general, it refers to the analysis and alteration of the discrimination of women and to theories of political, social and economic equality of the sexes (see e.g. Thiessen 2008, 37ff). Or, as Harding (1986, 24) states: “Feminism is a political movement for social change”. Its origins roughly date back to the late 18th century and the context of the French Revolution. Early protagonists were Olympe de Gouges who got beheaded for declaring the rights of women and female citizens, or Mary Wollstonecraft publishing “A Vindication for the Rights of Women” (1796). Wollenstonecraft condemns the tyranny of men demanding a fair and moral society. Amongst others she makes the strong statement (ibid.) that “[…] for all power inebriates weak men […] its abuse proves that the more equality there is established among men, the more virtue and happiness will reign in society.”

Overall, feminism serves as an umbrella for a couple of heterogeneous concepts that are academically concentrated in the field of women’s and gender studies encompassing different disciplines like history, economy, sociology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, theology etc. The various schools of thought that have developed mainly from Europe and the United States can be distinguished according to their basic ideas, political motives, ideologies and target groups. One common starting point of all forms is the uprising against the marginalization and subordination of women as a group under the domination of men which run counter to the ideas of fairness and democracy. A key program of scientific feminism in the context of such unequal power relations is the analysis of “binary oppositions as a structural principle of modern societies and basis for a hierarchical relationship between the sexes” (Thiessen 2008, 37ff). Several authors have discussed the history of feminism (see e.g. Götsch 2010; Beck 2009; Holland-Cunz 2003), and I will outline some of the most important concepts and perspectives in a simplified manner in the following paragraphs. Political Dimension

Major political movements are liberal, socialist and radical (autonomous) feminism. Liberal feminism came up in the second half of the 19th century mainly from within the middle-class demanding equal rights for women in politics and society – while keeping alive the traditional physical, psychological and traditional role differences and the ideal of the family as the major social institution. The socialist feminists basically saw the fight for the rights and the improvement of the social situation of working class women as one aspect in the overall quest for overcoming the class society. Recognizing that patriarchal structures are also dominant in socialist systems these ideas later turned towards a broader criticism of political structures. One stream includes the vision of (proletarian) men and women fighting together for equality and better living conditions; the other - radical feminism - refuses a mixed-sex approach trying to free all women from the patriarchal bonds and mechanisms of sexual suppressions which are said to be – explicitly or implicitly – supported and applied by most men (see. e.g. Millet 1971). Ideological Dimension

On the ideological axis, the ideas mainly deal with different gender concepts. The three major streams are the humanist-egalitarian wing constituting the similarity of both sexes, the gynocentric, essentialist or differences movement postulating the – mainly biologically founded – differences between men and women, and the postmodernist perspective which rejects essentialism and fixed definitions of gender attributes instead allowing for multiple views and realities. A fourth, recent movement is postfeminism challenging amongst others the current ‘end-of-feminism’ postulate.

The egalitarian advocates who stem mainly from the social sciences with Simone de Beauvoir as one of their most famous supporters argue that men and women have similar inherent preconditions and are only constructed ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ by education, society and role models, with political and economic interests supporting this distinction in favor of a clear gender-specific separation of work discriminating women. Men define women in relation to themselves as ‘other’, as relative, imperfect beings keeping them from transcending out of their assigned role framework and from obtaining an equal share of the political and social life. This notion lead Beauvoir to her famous statement that “one is not born a women – one becomes one” ([1951] 2009, 334). A basic conclusion of egalitarian feminists is that only a complete elimination of gender differences - including the feminine space - can lead to an equal treatment of men and women (Galster 2008, 47).

In contrast, the supporters of the differences theory - coming rather (but not only) from psychoanalysis - see major distinctions in the way men and women think, feel and act due to their specific physicalness and blame a patriarchal society to negatively judge female attributes in favor of an individualistic male culture glorifying death, violence and destruction. One of the key figures of this gynocentric movement which started to prevail in the discussions mid of the 1970s is Iris Marion Young, former supporter and follower of Simone de Beauvoir. From her new perspective, she criticizes the egalitarian denial of gender-specific behavior, skills and values for cementing the patriarchal norms and masculine values and argues for the positive rating of female attributes and qualities in society postulating them as a political instrument to enhance the status of women towards more gender fairness (see e.g. Lucke 2003; Jörke 2009).

Postmodern feminism is a theoretical framework with widely varying viewpoints which is strongly influenced by postmodern philosophy building on the ideas of philosophers like Nietzsche, Foucault, Derrida or Lacan (see e.g. Englert 2009; Wright 2000). It rejects traditional essentialist practices declaring that ‘reality’ is only a subjective impression being constructed by language and symbolism, often in a so-called “performative” way (Engelmann 2007, 140ff) and concludes that, as a consequence, the existing categories of gender and sex – including a general category ‘women’ – are devoid of meaning (von Hoff 2009, 188ff; see also Villa 2008a, 146, ff; Villa 2008b, 264f; Bartky 2005, 325f). In “Gender Trouble”, poststructuralist philosopher Judith Butler whose work is closely related to postmodernism criticizes previous feminist movements stating that “[…] the category ‘women’ […] is being brought forward and restrained exactly by those power structures that are meant to support the objective of emancipation” (Butler 1991, 17). The supporters of postmodernism suggest methods like deconstruction, genealogy or narrative and discursive approaches to create a new version of the truth – or rather: multiple truths and realities based on the diversity of gender, the respective situations and viewpoints.

Specific modern feminist strands that look at the construction of technology, nature and the environment are e.g. technofeminism, cyberfeminism, or ecofeminism (see e.g. Thiessen 2008, 39).

A major stream of the postfeminist discussion deals with the question whether the claims of feminist equality achievements hold true. In “The Aftermath of Feminism” McRobbie argues against this ‘end of feminism’ postulate and points out how the traditional gender and power structures get re-established in the guise of the increasing emphasis on the consumer and popular culture, specifically in the beauty and media industry, concluding that “feminism is instrumentalized” […] and the consent and participation of young women is sought, and seemingly secured, in a multiplicity of ways that defy the notion of a centralized power” (McRobbie 2009, 5ff). Chronological Waves

The development of feminism in Europe and North America is sometimes also described using the image of different waves (see e.g. West 2010). From this perspective, four major – partially overlapping – waves can be distinguished: First-wave feminism in the 19th century basically aimed at leveling the playing field with regard to equality in basic areas like property rights or voting rights. Second-wave feminism starting in the 1960s in general focused on cultural, social and political aspects of discrimination, like equality in employment, sexual harassment, and the political consequences of gender differences. Third-wave feminism in the 1990s, while building upon the topics of the earlier movements, addresses issues of feminism across class, race, sexual orientation and culture emphasizing female diversity. And finally, one could define a fourth wave in the late 20th and early 21st century encompassing postmodernism and postfeminism including the further development of feminist thought but also the claim of the “end of feminism” and various critiques of previous feminist theories (see e.g. Field 2000). Criticism and Discussion

There is much scholarly and literary discussion and criticism around all those concepts. One for example deals with exclusion and class separation, e.g. between white middle-class and proletarian women, or between blacks and whites, and also with the assessment of heterosexuality versus all other forms of sexuality in different theories (Thiessen 2008, 40f). Another point of critique targets today’s increasing ‘feminization’ of almost all sociological subjects which is said to partially already result in an oblivion of men, e.g. in the current discussion around the compatibility of family and work (Lucke 2003).

A specific ‘bone of contention’ of most theories is that while feminism strives to eliminate mechanisms of suppression and marginalization trying to broaden the perspective towards a more diverse picture appreciating female values and traits, its argumentations and emphasis on the biological merits of the female sex at the same time often unintentionally lead to a cementing of the criticized core dichotomy ‘men – women’. Others condemn precisely the elimination of this dichotomy proposed e.g. by Butler and the postmodernists as being unnatural and counterproductive for human life (see. e.g. Lucke 2003, 21f; Thiessen 2008, 40 ff). I agree with Gerhard (2004) that the apparent feminist paradox of requesting equal rights while at the same time proclaiming the differentiation of women from men (also called “Wollenstonecraft dilemma”) as criticized for example by Luhmann (1988) shows in fact feminism’s aptitude for reflection and self-observation, “just as sociology itself behaves when diagnosing and interpreting crises in the development of modernity” (Gerhard 2004, 131). As the diversity and controversies of the various feminist streams indeed tend to create a certain level of confusion, I like Campell’s approach (2004, 196) to summarize all thoughts to be rooted in three basic beliefs from which all feminist groups work in “distinct, but organically connected ways” (ibid.) to accomplish benefit for all women:

“The right of each and every woman to full humanity A commitment to act for oneself and for all women The goal of social justice and systemic change.”

And, finally, I think Haraway (1988) adds an interesting and broader perspective with the following statement:

“Feminism loves another science: The sciences and politics of interpretation, translation, stuttering, and the partly understood. Feminism is about the sciences of the multiple subjects with (at least) double vision. Feminism is about crucial vision consequent upon a critical positioning in unhomogeneous gendered social space.”

In this thesis, I use the term ‘feminism’ analog to Sefyrin (2010) as an epistemological approach summarizing assumptions, theories and methodologies towards achieving gender equality and will point to specific streams whenever necessary.

1.4.2 Gender

The term ‘gender’ is closely linked with feminism. It is an anglo-saxon term which has been introduced in the 1970s as a means to differentiate between biological sex and the socially and culturally constructed masculinities and femininities – much like Simone de Beauvoir’s “one is not born a women” (see e.g. Meissner 2008; Lucke 2003; Krings 2002a; Oakley 1972). According to Van Oost (2003) the shaping of gender takes place at three different levels: On the individual level as expressed in skills, attitudes and identities, on the structural level by means of a gendered division of labor, and on a symbolic level with cultural processes, norms and values being associated with masculinity or femininity. What is perceived masculine or feminine varies over time and place showing that gender is a “dynamic and multiple phenomenon” (ibid.). A frequently quoted definition of how gender materializes within organizations and processes was coined by Acker (1990, 146):

“To say that an organization, or any other analytic unit, is gendered means that advantage and disadvantage, exploitation and control, action and emotion, meaning and identity, are patterned through and in terms of a distinction between male and female, masculine and feminine. Gender is not an addition to ongoing processes, conceived as gender neutral. Rather, it is an integral part of those processes […].” Feminist Perspective: Many Truths

The idea of a socially constructed gender can be seen as a “minimum consensus” in most areas of feminist and gender research (Meissner 2008). The question of the breadth and depth of this construction yet sees some discussion and ranges from the insights that there are as many categories of women as there are different contexts, e.g. with regard to class, age, race, geography, sexuality, education etc. (ibid.) to a complete negotiation of the basic binary construction ‘men – woman’. The latter, most controversial theory deviating substantially from other branches of feminism is based on Judith Butler’s argumentation that the biological sex itself is constructed and a product of language and symbolism (Butler 1991, 22ff). Butler actually criticizes the still too narrow distinction between sex and gender stipulated by previous feminist schools of thought pointing to the fact that also material things like the body can be subject to social construction.

Relating to the way individuals create a socially constructed gender reality for themselves and others by means of language and symbols, West/Zimmermann (1987, 126) coined the concept of “doing gender”. They understand gender (ibid.)

“[…] as a routine, methodical and recurring accomplishment […] undertaken by women and men […] involving a complex of socially guided perceptual, interactional, and micropolitical activities that cast particular pursuits as expressions of masculine and feminine natures.”

Thus, gender and sex are not seen as the basis for differences in human behavior but vice versa – as the result of complex social processes (Gildemeister 2008, 137). Political Approach: Gender = Sex?!

Krings (2002a, 5) describes the vivid and controversial discussions during the 4th UN World Conference on Women in Beijing around the concept of gender as a social construct by many national and spiritual delegations including the Vatican who feared a marginalization of the biological sex. As a result, the final report defines the term ‘gender’ as “an alternative opportunity to refer to men and women”, ‘gender equality’ as “a synonym for the equality of men and women”, and ‘gender awareness’ as “being conscious with regard to the different implications of political decisions on men and women” (ibid.). The so-called ‘gender mainstreaming’ is a strategy and concept to create gender equality in daily life. It mainly appeals to governments and institutions to consider the perspective of gender in all political decisions and programs (United Nations 1995; see also Zimmermann/Metz-Göckel 2007, 13ff; Meuser 2004, 101ff; McGregor/Bazo 2001, 18 ff). Industrial Approach: Managing Diversity

In parallel to this political implementation of gender equality concepts that aim mainly at creating equal opportunities based on ethical considerations, industry has increasingly established the American idea of ‘diversity management’ recognizing that a pro-active valuation and inclusion of the variety of ethnicities, age, gender, religion etc. has a positive effect on the economic success of most companies (see e.g. Schraudner 2010, 13; Pasero 2004, 156). Scientific Implementation: Gender Studies

The scientific discussion of gender has emerged from the area of women’s studies in social sciences. While women’s studies were characterized by a close relation of theoretical analyses with political aims to improve the position of women, gender studies deal with the cultural assessment of masculinities and femininities in the context of social organizations and also link into other sciences and topics like technology, physics, mathematics or medicine. (see e.g. Braun/Stephan 2009, 32; Leicht-Scholten 2007, 9ff; Zorn et al. 2007, 17; Krings 2002a, 5). Including both men and women, the scientific approach to gender implies a structural difference but at the same time strongly emphasizes the level of social and cultural diversity within and between the sexes thus building a joint platform and broad basis for various theories and approaches (Krings 2002a). Concepts and focus have shifted over time with changing interests as well as theoretical and political positions with regard to the gender gap. I will briefly introduce three perspectives that are close to some of the feminist theories described above and that have led to different kinds of measures and activities by policy makers and companies - the liberal tradition, standpoint theory and post-structuralism (see e.g. Maass et al. 2007, 12ff): In the liberal tradition, common amongst policy makers, men and women are seen as equal. Activities aim at helping women to overcome existing disadvantages and at unfolding discriminatory practices. The key point of the standpoint theory is that women and men are fundamentally different and that ‘femininities’ need to be revalued with systems and cultures having to adapt to the female requirements. The post-structuralist view takes a wider approach looking at how identities or ‘gendered subjectivities’ are shaped by language and images in order to deconstruct and redefine ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. Becoming more embedded into academia, the focus in gender studies has shifted – often combining other axes of diversity like race, age or ethnicities – towards “analytical, deconstructive research questions, which are relevant for changing society” (Zorn et al. 2007; see also chapter 3.1.4). Criticism and Discussion

Scholars still partially struggle with the term ‘gender’ and the interpretations vary based on the respective theoretical positions and scientific perspectives (Zimmermann/Metz-Göckel 2007, 19f). According to Meissner (2008, 6ff), the negation of the binary relation of the sexes makes it “a paradoxical category”. On the other side, a key point of criticism – very much like for many feminist approaches – is that in practical use gender often gets reduced down to the biological dichotomy ‘male – female’ thus preserving the old categories, disregarding differences within the respective gender groups and unconsciously replicating the existing stereotypes and male norms (see also Maass et al. 2007, 13f; Frey et al. 2006).

Having pointed out the different concepts and views of the term ‘gender’ and being aware that many feminists, especially in the postmodernist tradition, might argue for a wider focus, this text – for the sake of simplicity – will be related to the basic categories ‘men/ male’ and ‘women/female’ recognizing that there are no stereotypes and each group is heterogeneous with regard to social and cultural criteria like e.g. education, age, social class or religion (see e.g. Bessing 2006, 19; Schraudner/Lukoschat 2006, 7; Wajcman 2000, 452; Fox-Keller 1995, 84f). I agree with Liz Popolo (2006) that preconceptions and over-simplification based on gender or orientation let us miss the whole facets of individual personalities and have included her little cartoon to visualize this thought (figure 2). As I am specifically concerned with women’s relationship to technology I will focus on the aspect of technology and masculinity only insofar as it illuminates and influences this relationship, but I will not analyze relations of gender and technology with regard to their implications for men and masculinity (for this perspective see e.g. Light 2006).

Figure 1: Boy or Girl – Who Cares?

illustration not visible in this excerpt


1.4.3 Science & Technology

Science and technology – and with them also the terms ‘research’, ‘engineering’ and ‘design’ – are often mentioned in the same breath, e.g. for purposes of reference, but also when it comes to the analysis of gender aspects in the context of one of the fields (see e.g. Smith Keller 1992, 5ff). As they indeed have multiple points of contact and overlaps, it is difficult to separate the areas. In particular, the feminist discussion often fails to make a clear distinction between science and technology as Wajcman points out (1991, 13). Staudenmaier (1985, 83ff) elaborates on the ongoing discussions and conflicting definitions of the terms in science and technology studies (STS) concluding that the boundaries between the disciplines have changed over time and with the different historical periods and perspectives.

Science and research are closely related and very often used interchangeably, e.g. when talking about ‘a scientific or research project’. In fact, this usage is not correct as I will point out below. Science: Discovering and Explaining

The term ‘science’ has its origins in the Latin ‘scientia’ and stands for ‘knowledge’. Today, the definitions are more complex referring mostly to the incremental process of knowledge acquisition. Looking at the dictionary, science is amongst others defined as “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method” (Merriam-Webster 2011). A major aim is to discover enduring principles of the phenomenal world. Natural sciences like mathematics or physics study natural phenomena, social sciences deal with human behavior, organizations and societies. Key paradigms in science are the so-called ‘scientific method’ and the empirical approach requiring the knowledge and results to be obtained by a distinct set of steps and to be based on observable phenomena that can be validated by other researchers in a similar setting (see e.g. Popper 1959). A distinction is also made between formal and applied science. While formal science deals with formal systems such as logic, computer science or systems theory and remains within a theoretical environment, applied science transfers scientific knowledge into the physical environment. Research: The First Step to Knowledge Acquisition

Research in general refers to the actual gathering of information. This can be done in various different ways e.g. by observation, experiments, reading or search. In the scientific context, research is the first step in the process of systematic knowledge acquisition applying the scientific method. The OECD’s “Frascati Manual” defines three forms of research (OECD 2002):

“Basic Research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge […] without any particular applications or use in view.

Applied Research is also original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.

Experimental Development is systematic work, drawing on existing knowledge gained from research and/or practical experience, which is directed to producing new materials, products or devices, to installing new processes, systems and services or to improving substantially those already produced or installed.”

In a nutshell: Basic or fundamental research is driven mainly by the scientist’s curiosity or interest without an immediate commercial objective whereas applied research leverages and uses theories, knowledge, methods and techniques to achieve a practical – often commercial – purpose. Applied research is often closely linked with experimental development and also called R&D, specifically in the industrial setting. Basic research is usually said to lay the foundation for applied research.

Empirical research based on the scientific method is divided into quantitative research generating statistics using large scale surveys and qualitative research exploring attitudes and behaviors by means of methods like interviews, notes, feedback forms or videos. In contrast to the large number of participants and rather short contact times in quantitative research, qualitative approaches seeking in-depth information about a person’s ideas and experiences, target fewer people but the contacts tend to last longer. Non-empirical research is based on subjective interpretation rather than on evidence from the real world. Examples of non-empirical methods are scenario building, deconstruction, or Delphi techniques (see e.g. Clarke 2003; Smith Keller 1992, 5f). Engineering & Technology: Designing Solutions

The relation and distinction between science and research being rather straight forward, science, engineering and technology are more closely intertwined terms and are subject to many debates – specifically with regard to the relation of engineering vis-à-vis the other two concepts. As engineering and technology are at the core of my set of research questions I will shed some more light on the various views and perspectives several authors take to explain the nature of these subjects. While in certain publications engineering and technology have been “increasingly subsumed into science” (Macilwain 2011), the author community of Wikipedia (2009) arrived at the following definition:

“Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of people.”

In summary, one can state that engineering is related to design and interdisciplinary theory and encompasses wider areas including processes and systems. It is often classified as a specific field of study and an applied science leveraging knowledge to create something structural, for example a solar power plant.

Technology, in contrast, relates rather to artifacts and applications that aim at controlling and adapting to our environments. Taking the example of the solar power plant as an engineering project, a key technological contribution was the development of the solar cell. Smith Keller defines technology as the usage of scientific as well as practical knowledge, tools and techniques to practical ends. Drawing a line to science she states that “technology differs from science in that science is about discovering and explaining and [engineering and] technology [are] about designing and making” (Smith Keller 1992, 25ff).

While technology is often based on the results from science and engineering, as a human activity it is much older than science, has a larger impact on daily life and in many places also exists without scientific input. The word comes from the Greek ‘tekhne’ (standing for ‘art’, or ‘way of doing’) and ‘logike’ (which means ‘reasoning’) – so technology can be translated “reasoning about the art of doing” (Smith Keller 1992, 24). Early on in their history, the human species already started converting natural resources into simple tools for hunting, shelter or for other purposes at the same time reasoning about the best materials and designs for these objects. So technology actually covers a wide range of meaning starting with very simple artifacts and skills like using bone tools to cut animal skin and create clothing or the ability to control fire, to key inventions for mobility and communication like the wheel or the telephone, to extremely sophisticated devices like spaceships or the world famous particle accelerator - the ‘Large Hadron Collider’ - at the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

An interesting approach that exemplifies the varying nature of the term ‘technology’ has been created by Long/Dowell (1989). The authors differentiate three models of technology: The craft model, the engineering model and the applied sciences model. The craft model, also called ‘master-apprentice model’, refers to the older and basic technologies like wood-working or potting and uses practical rules of thumb. The technology develops over time and with experience, it can rarely be generalized and is often transmitted orally or at most in form of sketches expecting that the reader or follower knows a lot about the methods used. The model relates to earlier times and technologies in many Third World countries. The engineering model came up in the late Middle Ages seeking to apply hypotheses and testing in order to develop the practice of technology. Due to this more systematic approach the knowledge can be generalized and has been put down in writing. This model characterizes engineering in the 19th century and many of today’s established areas like mechanical or civil engineering. The applied science model refers to the ‘high-tech’ development of the 20th and 21st century. It uses scientific knowledge and methods and applies them to the solution of technical problems in areas like material sciences or electronic engineering. This form of technology often aims at changing nature to meet a certain objective, e.g. transforming metal in new ways for new uses.

Another way of looking at the topic is from the state of sophistication: Smith Keller (1992, 25ff) differentiates between low, high, intermediate and alternative technologies. Low technologies are the very basic methods of food production, shelter-building or health-maintenance that address the basic needs. High technology equals our Western usage and image of technology as a concept referring to large systems, e.g. for the production of food, that meet much more than basic needs and for which the demand must be artificially stimulated to achieve the necessary economies of scale. Intermediate technologies attempt to deliver the right scale of technological solutions specifically to poorer and third world countries where high-tech artifacts are not appropriate This concept is closely aligned to alternative technologies trying to minimize the environmental impact of technology. A specific example are renewable energy sources like solar cells on the roofs of small rural cabins in Third World countries that provide the electric power for cooking and heating mitigating the risk of open fire in the room and the corresponding health problems as well as eliminating the necessity to gather firewood as a key daily task for women.

The UK Technology Education Centre (2011) coined yet another perspective distinguishing five different views of technology containing additional organizational and social aspects:

“1. Technology as a sociotechnical system: The manufacture and use of objects involving people and other objects in combination.”

Johnson (2006, 2) further highlights the social aspects by stating:

“Technology is much more than engineering. While technology often originates with engineers, many other actors and institutions are involved in determining which technologies succeed, how technologies are used, and what cultural meaning is associated with them. […] We encounter technology as we move physically and socially through our lives.”

Adding to these thoughts around the larger dimension of technology, the final perspective I would like to share here is the idea of Pacey (1983, 4ff) who introduces the concept of technology as a “practice” in order to show the breadth of the topic including cultural and organizational aspects. Figure 2 visualizes this approach and illustrates also how the term is sometimes used in a restricted sense and sometimes with a much broader meaning:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: The Restricted and General Meaning of Technology

Source: Pacey, A. (1983, 6). The Culture of Technology. Oxford: Blackwell Publisher Ltd.

The nature of design as a key aspect of engineering and technology is similarly complex. Archer (1973, cited by the UK Technology Education Centre 2011) wrote that:

“Design is that area of human experience, skill and knowledge which is concerned with man’s ability to mould his environment to suit his material and spiritual needs.”

In the context of engineering and technology, design is defined as a structured problem-solving process which begins with the perception of a need or the identification of a problem, continues with the formulation of a specification, the generation of ideas and a final solution, and ends with an evaluation of the solution (see also Bratteteig 2002).

Overall, engineering and technology have a huge impact on society and the life of each individual. It is through the use of these disciplines that we are able to leverage our natural resources to satisfy our basic and advanced needs. Both areas are indispensable for the development and growth of the infrastructure and the economic development of any nation. Science and Technology Studies

Science and Technology Studies emerged in the mid-1980 when technology was added as a topic and notion to science studies programs. STS uncover and document how scientific research and technological innovation and design are affected by social, political and cultural aspects and vice versa (see. e.g. Johnson 2006, 3). In this context, gender has arisen as one of the major attributes of the so-called “social shaping/social construction of technology” (see e.g. Hackett et al. 2008; MacKenzie/Wajcman 1999; Hughes/ Bijker 1987). “Feminist Technoscience” (or feminist studies of science and technology) is an overlapping field of STS looking at ways in which gender is interweaved with natural, medical and technical sciences and within sociotechnical networks and practices. The term ‘technoscience’ was coined to emphasize the fact that science and technology cannot be separated from each other, or from society (Sefyrin 2010b) and that basic science – usually deemed neutral – is “entangled in societal interests, and can be held as politically and ethically accountable as the technological practices and interventions to which it may give rise” (Åsberg/Lykke 2010, 299; see also Weber 2006). Criticism and Discussion

The field of Science and Technology is large, closely connected and interrelated – and in certain areas vividly debated. Some key points of discussion center around the established “Western” definition of the scientific approach as the one way to obtaining the truth by means of experiments, abstract theories and models devaluing all other scholarly disciplines (see e.g. Campbell 2004, 197). Smith Keller (1992, 5) remarks that

“All cultures try to make sense of the material world around them, predict cause and effect and develop techniques and knowledge to make artifacts, but many of the methods they use would not qualify as ‘scientific’ in our terms.”

Another area of debate is the question of whether and how science and technology and science and engineering are related and whether or not engineering and technology are “applied science”. MacKenzie and Wajcman (1999, 6f) argue that while technology is often said to be applied science the two have “by no means always been connected activities”, and where they are linked they have contributed equally to each other (see also McCormick et al. 1993, vii). The UK Technology Education Centre (2011) states that “Very little technology could be classified as applied science. Technology is marked by different purposes, different processes, a different relationship to established knowledge and a particular relationship to specific contexts of activity.”

Specifically, the notion of engineering as a synonym for applied science has triggered a lot of controversies, for example over the fact whether the ‘linear model of innovation’ stating that scientific discovery is the basis for engineering activity reflects reality. To invalidate this argument, many engineers – especially in the light of the public funding discussion that tends to privilege basic scientific research – often point to technological innovations like aviation or electric light that preceded the scientific understanding of the matter and nevertheless have added tremendous value for society (see e.g. Mcilwain 2011).

An interesting discussion is also happening around values and the negative and destructive side of technology. While many people still think technology is value-free and technological development proceeds independently of human purpose it can be clearly observed that this is not the case (see e.g. Riggs/Conway 1991). In the industrial culture materialist and prestigious objectives often dominate governmental decisions and sometimes even get out of control. Pacey (1983, 80) observes that

“[…] there are still occasions when technological development seems to escape political control, and when the imperatives behind it go beyond even military requirements as well as economic sense. The biased projections and one-sided world views of the experts sometimes have the effect of manoeuvring politicians into positions they never wished to take.”

A current example of this notion is the discussion around the runtime extension for nuclear power plants in Germany which is clearly dominated by the economic objectives of the operators arguing that ‘German high-tech’ is absolutely safe and putting pressure on the politicians to further support this dangerous technology. A historic example of an unholy alliance between the technological visions and excitement of engineers and the quest for political power is the development of the US nuclear program in the early 1950s. To point out how the “technological imperative” can make certain scientists and engineers prioritize “scientific curiosity and technological virtuosity” higher than the welfare of mankind Pacey (1983, 124f) refers to Edward Teller, theoretical physicist and head of the ‘Manhattan Project’ who was charged with developing the first atomic bomb. All of his life, and even when after Hiroshima and Nagasaki the horrifying consequences of a nuclear explosion became clear to everybody, Teller was obsessed with the possibilities of this technology and a strong advocate of nuclear weapons without caring about the social consequences.

A specific point of criticism on the feminist writing in the context of science and technology is being set forth by Wajcman (1991) who argues that many feminist authors constructed science purely as ‘knowledge’ and transferred this view also onto their analysis of technology. Yet, as science includes practices and institutions so does technology which is basically about creating artifacts that shape realities and are being shaped by their creators. She thus stresses the need for a “different theoretical approach to the analysis of the gender relations of technology” (Wajcman 1991, 13) which will be part of my literature review on gender and technology in chapter three.

As my focus of interest is on the evaluation of gender aspects in the design of technology and specifically software solutions, I will primarily look at engineering and technology including applied research as well as experimental and actual development activities. I will use the term ‘design’ in a broader sense synonymously for the planning and creation of prototypes, applications and interfaces. In a narrower sense, I understand IT design as proposed by Suchman (2002, 100) as “a process of inscribing knowledges and activities into new material forms”. The gender/women–science relations will not be explicitly analyzed. Yet, due to the interrelations and described overlaps between science, research, engineering and technology some argumentation along with the reasoning of various authors and scholars combines and partially mixes the terms and fields.

To sum up, figure 3 illustrates the general relationship between science and technology pointing out that while overlaps exists in an area that could be called ‘applied science’ there are a number of distinct differences between the two fields.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3: Science versus Technology

Source: Further adapted from Sparkes, J. (1993, 25 - 36). Some Differences between Science and Technology. In: McCormick, R./Newey, C./Sparkes, J. (Eds.): Technology for Technology Education. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.

2. The Relevance of Gender for Technology Design

“Women are the biggest economic revolution of our time.”

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

In the 2007 Report “Science, Technology & Gender” the UNESCO assesses that despite the fact that women in some areas do significantly contribute to technological developments and also could benefit largely from technology “women’s concerns and contributions are frequently disregarded in science and technology policy, research and development” (UNESCO 2007, 45). Women remain in most cases dramatically underrepresented in the respective policy- and decision-making bodies at all levels. Not only could they provide very little input to the research agendas, science and technology research has also mainly neglected their situations, interest and concerns, both from a physiological and social perspective – thus the UNESCO (2007, 51) rightly states:

“The advantages offered by new products and technologies cannot be used to their fullest potential if they do not complement the existing skills and knowledge of their intended beneficiaries – men and women.”

It appears there are many limitations to women’s likely impact as consumers and creators of technology due to their remoteness from the decision and design processes. The gains can only be small-scale improvements as the choice is always constrained by the technologies currently in use. The general underlying problem to this situation has been dubbed ‘Collingridge Dilemma’ referring to the fact that consequences of new technologies are not always predictable, and by the time it turns out that something is wrong with a technology, both its artifacts and the social interest surrounding them, have become so entrenched that they represent major barriers to change (Collingridge/Reeve 1986; see also Faulkner 2001). Considering the fact that women represent half of every nations’ human resource base, it is important to incorporate a gender-aware perspective with regard to technology policies and processes, and to integrate women much more closely into the process of designing technology as well as into the context of use.

2.1 Women - A Neglected Target Group

Markets have been changing heavily over the last decades due to the impacts of globalization, but also based on social and demographical factors. This includes the change in the gender ratio that has happened in the Western industrialized nations. While the gender of users has been a design variable in certain industries, like e.g. cosmetics, media or apparel for long, it has so far been largely neglected in the area of technology products – despite an increasing number of highly educated and economically independent women acting as autonomous customers and design-conscious users of technology (see e.g. Van Oost 2003). The development still mainly happens based on the underlying experience of a homogeneous group of scientists and engineers rarely considering the needs of female users in technological research, design and development (see e.g. Joost et al. 2010; Schraudner/Lukoschat 2006). In contrast, as touched on in the introduction, gender differences are rather being blocked out in the development of technology as illustrated by means of the speech recognition example (Schraudner/Lukoschat 2006, 3) and – much worse – the airbag system example where the negligence of the specifics of the female body might cause deadly injuries to smaller women and children (Rosser 2006, 15; see also Püchner 2009; Karpf 1987, 159).

A reason for this inattentiveness to obvious realities is seen in the continuous male domination in the areas of technology research, design and development. The respective departments are still staffed mainly with men, so gender stereotypes are being reproduced often without a deliberate consideration of alternative approaches (Joost et al. 2010; see also chapter three). This gendered design process can be illustrated using as a further example the development of the ‘smart home’, the technology-assisted house of the future as described by Berg (1999, 301ff). The designers unconsciously modeled the technology based on male norms giving priority to energy saving, safety, communication technology and entertainment mapping the habitation patterns of men who in general more often use the house for eating, sleeping and relaxing. The general habitation patters of women who are on average spending more time working at home, taking care of the children and of social activities for the family are not mapped. Honeywell even uses the slogan “The house that will do the job for you” (Berg 1999, 306) referring to the fact that all appliances are integrated into a single electronic network to increase comfort of use. ‘Job’ here does not refer to any actual work that is normally carried out in the house and completely ignores feminine connotated tasks. What is especially striking in this example is that women possess important skills and knowledge about life and work at home and would thus be a key resource for the design process and the ideal marketing target for the ‘smart home’. Yet, the designers entirely neglected this highly relevant social group. Being asked for their target purchaser, both Honeywell and other manufacturers after several rounds of discussion finally admitted to see the user as “the owner and synonymous with the man of the house […] who would share their fascination with electronic or technological gadgets” (Berg 1999, 311; see also Pacey 1983, 104ff). Figure 4 taken from a Honeywell brochure perfectly visualizes this notion.

Figure 4: Home Automation – A One-Dimensional Perspective

illustration not visible in this excerpt


A specific phenomenon are companies that actually know their market is female but still develop products and do marketing for stereotype kinds of users marginalizing the reality and needs of its consumers. Wittenberg-Cox/Maitland (2009) report amongst other examples of a large American white goods company manufacturing washing machines, dish-washers, microwaves and the like for mostly female end users. The firm is run almost exclusively by men, and the R&D director enthusiastically claims to “contribute to the liberation of women” while the management’s ideas of what contemporary women might need appear to the authors to be “locked in a historical deep-freezer” (Wittenberg-Cox/Maitland 2009, 99f). He was utterly surprised when asked whether he could not better contribute to women’s liberation by changing the notion in his marketing campaigns towards more job-sharing in housework – a demonstration of his unawareness of the situation of modern women and couples. All of these examples demonstrate that the marginalization of women in the context of technology has a profound influence on the design, technical content, use and usability of artifacts.

2.2 Social and Economic Benefits of Gender Awareness

In the following paragraphs I will point out that an increasing awareness of the importance of gender in technology design, a shift in mindset towards more equality and a focus on women as creators and users of technology will be beneficial not only from a social and ethical but specifically also from an economic perspective.

2.2.1 A Question of Fairness and Equality

The gender dimension of science and technology has become “an increasingly important and topical issue worldwide” (UNESCO 2007, 11; see also WSIS 2003). Realizing an ascent with regard to the percentage of women being creators and designers of technology directly contributes to more fairness between the genders and to the equality objectives set out by national and international policy makers. Since the 1976-1985 ‘United Nations Decade for Women’ particular attention has been paid to the role of women in science and technology which was pushed further when in 2000 gender equality became one of the eight ‘United Nations Millennium Development Goals’. The UNESCO defines its role in this context as “taking up the issues and working to overcome gender disparities in access to, influence over, and use of science and technology” (UNESCO 2007, 11). Adding to that, the UN implemented a dedicated “Gender Equality Strategy” aiming at addressing “the array of gender gaps, unequal policies and discrimination that historically have disadvantaged women” (UNDP 2008, 2). In Europe, gender mainstreaming was already officially put into place for public institutions and EU-financed programs at the end of the 1990s, and implemented in the 6th Framework Program (European Commission 2008a):

“The Sixth Framework Program strives to promote gender equality in scientific research, through promoting the participation of women scientists and integrating the gender dimension in research content, wherever relevant.”

The fact that women make up more than half of all university graduates in the Western world - often outperforming their male peers - while their skills are not used properly is seen as “a waste of women’s talents and human resources” (European Commission 2008a, 3; see also World Economic Forum 2010).

The EU ‘Roadmap for Equality’ goes a step further and adds a new economical and qualitative perspective leaving the level of pure equality as the political goal. A key objective is to have 25% women in leading positions based on the argument that the participation of women in science and technology needs to be promoted as it “can contribute to increasing innovation, quality and competitiveness of scientific and industrial research” (European Commission 2008b, 5).


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Gender and Technology. The “Female Factor” in Software Design
Vienna University of Technology  (Institut für Managementwissenschaften)
Master of Business Administration - Entrepreneurship & Innovation
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- Ausz. Kommentar: Viele politische Initiativen in Europa drängen derzeit darauf, Frauen in die Erforschung und Entwicklung von Technologien zu integrieren. Dennoch zeigen bisherige Maßnahmen wenig Erfolg. Henrike Pätz geht dem Phänomen auf den Grund, wie die Entwicklung und Nutzung von Technologie mit der Erzeugung von sozialem Geschlecht verschränkt ist. Erst ein solch grundlegendes Verständnis ermöglicht, wirksame Maßnahmen gegen die Marginalisierung von Frauen insbesondere in den männerdominierten naturwissenschaftl. und techn. Bereichen zu entwickeln. - Best Thesis Award TU Wien 2011
Gender, Genderforschung, Women & Technology, Women & IT, Software Design, Women, IT
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Henrike Paetz (Author), 2011, Gender and Technology. The “Female Factor” in Software Design, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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