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Durham University

Research & business

The Culture of Women in Tech

(26 June 2020)

Dr Mariann Hardey has a new podcast episode out this week with New Books Network. The episode focuses around the culture of women in tech and Dr Hardey’s own experiences in this area.

Reflecting on her desire to take up computer science at college, Dr Hardey described: “I remember walking through the classroom on the first day and having the tutor turn around and look at me and say, “I think you’re in the wrong room” and me saying, “no, no, definitely not, this is computer science and I’m here to learn so where do we begin and where do you want me to sit?” and he said “no, no, I think we need to reconsider your position in this class.” Dr Hardey was then ushered out of the class and into another class which focused on using technology for secretarial skills.

In Dr Hardey’s book ‘The Culture of Women in Tech’, she explains that it is with uncomfortable disquiet that she has observed the global popularity and celebration of the ‘women in tech’ (WiT) label: “Uncomfortable, as while the label signals ways to conveniently bring some of the problems into the public domain, it also continues to confirm the collective identity of women in the sector as being somehow ‘other’, which is (surely) wrong?”

Dr Hardey shares how the ‘Women in Tech (WiT)’ label had been popularised in three main ways:

  • By women’s tech groups, to advocate for and advance the status of women in the industry. These groups became more visible around the mid-2000s.
  • By the popular media, using it in news and press articles to describe the state of the tech industry and critique the lack of diversity. Following speculation about the influence of computers and other home technology, access to education to overcome the digital divide, and the first generation ‘born digital’, popular press articles using the label ‘women in tech’ were common from late 2000s.
  • In government and industry reports pointing out ‘the problem’. In the UK, The equality strategy – building a fairer Britain report detailed the gender pay gap between ‘women and men in science, engineering and technology’ from 2010 (Revenue & Customs); and the United Nations Gender, Science and Technology report was launched in September 2010, setting out the role of the (then new) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for 2010-2014 and commitments on women’s and girl’s access to, and participation in, science and technology.

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