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The trouble with ‘women in computing’: a critical examination of the deployment of research on the gender gap in computer science

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/11/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Gender Studies
Issue number6
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)666-680
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date24/09/15
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The pessimistic scenario for ‘women in information communications technology’ and for ‘women in technology’ generally is even more paradoxical and insidious with respect to ‘women in computing’. Studies within this field not only report insignificant improvement in the proportion of women in Western countries’ computing fields but also alert us of a declining trend. Moreover, that decline has been accompanied – or even preceded – by years of research and programs that have specifically focused on increasing women’s participation in computing; however, they have not had the expected effect. More surprisingly, there has been a significant increase in the representation of women in all other science-related fields and professions. Our aim is to provide some clues to fight the feeling of inexorability that may be entailed by the research on women in computing. We will argue that part of the problem is related to the static nature of the research deployed around the problem of ‘women in computing’, primarily, the research constructed around the ‘leaky pipeline’ metaphor. We provide a synthesis of the critiques this research has received in recent decades and highlight research trends that render other landscapes visible when studying ‘women in computing’. These trends help us question how we are conducting research within this field and urge us to problematise assumptions about computing and gender that we may paradoxically continue to reproduce even while denouncing the paucity of women in computing and studying the reasons for this state of affairs. In short, we present the need for different researchers’ eyes that allow different landscapes of women and computing to be seen and produced.