A Gender Perspective in Research
Maria Magdalena Holmgren is a postgraduate student studying leadership and innovative capacity within the field of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Center for Interorganisational Innovation Research (CiiR).
“We have to integrate a gender perspective into all research, otherwise it won’t be objective,” says Holmgren.
“And I know from my own experience as a project manager that groups become more dynamic and better quality results are achieved when both men’s and women’s experience is utilised.” The lack of a gender dimension has consequences, Holmgren believes. It limits both men’s and women’s opportunities.
“Take a simple thing like role models. If we can’t relate to the stereotypical image of an innovator or of an entrepreneur, for example, as they are portrayed in research or in the media, then the risk is great that we will choose to pursue something else,” Holmgren explains.
Diversity Initiative at ProcessIT
One industry that has traditionally been extremely homogeneous is the process industry. For this reason, industry collaboration centre ProcessIT has initiated a change project aimed at improving the industry’s understanding of diversity and gender issues.
“Many of our project sponsors require that we work on these issues,” explains Pär-Erik Martinsson, Project Manager at ProcessIT.
“We’re taking the matter seriously and are trying to increase project participants’ awareness of these issues through training and workshops. In the long-term, we hope that this will lead to better projects and better innovations.”
“Our local diversity-promotion work has a lot in common with the way they think in Brussels,” Martinsson adds.
Gender Equality in the IT Industry
Johan E. Bengtsson is leader of the SATIN project’s business team and chairperson of the IT Industry Council in Luleå, northern Sweden.
Why should the IT industry work to achieve gender equality? What are the advantages? Women are severely under-represented in today’s IT industry, which means that a great skills resource (i.e., that possessed by women) has been lost somewhere along the journey through the education system and recruitment processes. In the same way, people with foreign backgrounds are also under-represented. Far too few people are studying IT for us to be able to meet future needs, so it is critical that we make use of the skills that already exist, regardless of a person’s gender or origin. This applies both to recruitment and at a later stage when selecting people to take on more difficult tasks.
Why is it important for SATIN and other projects to integrate gender equality into their work? When it comes to projects, it’s not really possible to separate the issue of gender equality from that of diversity. A good mix of people of both genders and from different origins contributes to tackling tasks from a host of different perspectives and to applying a broad range of experience. Doing so improves the quality of the project’s results and increases the number of opportunities to disseminate the results.
More Perspectives in the SATIN Project’s Product
Lena Palmquist is a postgraduate student at the Department of Computing Science at Umeå University and is also part of the SATIN project’s design team.
Why should the IT industry work to achieve gender equality? What are the advantages?
In part, it has to do with power, I believe. Changing the industry’s image as being “exclusive” and paving the way for a greater proportion of ordinary people to feel at home with the products produced. The industry also benefits if both women and men see themselves as potential users of all sorts of IT products. It’s also about the positive consequences of diversity. The more perspectives considered when making products, the better.
Why is it important for SATIN and other projects to integrate gender equality into their work?
To make sure the product of the SATIN project does not provide an advantage or disadvantage to any one group, we wanted to investigate what factors might lead to such inequality. We want our product to appeal to different groups by trying to overcome any elements that seem to scare off women more than they do men. I believe it is quite common that gender equality and a gender perspective are seen as unnecessary expenses when producing IT products. At the same time, doing so could pave the way for a wider customer base and, thereby, also for increased profits.
How have you integrated gender equality into the SATIN project?
We have specifically sought out research on women’s experience with and strategies for handling end-user programming. In these cases, users have no knowledge of programming are still able to do something that resembles simple programming. We have tried to incorporate our findings into the design of our product.
A good example of how integrating gender equality and diversity supports the project is the design group’s work within SATIN. They have tracked down and analysed information about design aspects of end-user programming that can be incorporated in a concrete way into the SATIN platform’s design. The aim is that the design will encourage self-efficacy and reflection, thus helping to broaden the group of users who want to develop apps.