Female leadership: reality & social chance

Our previous post described how, in some contexts, the relation of women and technology is perceived almost as a deviation of the conventional ideas of femininity. But technology is not the only field in which women are still underrepresented. A similar situation is found on leadership positions.

According to the Global Leadership Forecast 2014-2015 elaborated by Development Dimensions International (DDI): “Even with a greater academic achievement and an increased presence in global workforce, women are underrepresented in leadership and are more likely to be found in lower-level than higher-level leadership roles”.
This statement is clearly supported by Catalyst’s Women in Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. In the main US companies, women only hold the 4% of CEO positions.

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Women, Evil and Technology vs Conventional Ideas of Femininity

women and technology


The mermaid, the witch, the femme fatale (…): these are all representations of evil women or women who have subverted the conventional ideas of femininity. Kept alive in oral tradition and hidden in the unspoken rules of society, the dangerous, evil woman lives on to define what we believe a woman should be


These words belong to the overview of “Perceiving Evil: Evil, Women and the Feminine” edited by D. Farnell, R. Noiva and K. Smith in the frame of the alternative, unconventional, and multidisciplinary approach promoted by the Evil Project. This year, the Project will hold its 8th Global Meeting in Oxford (UK) on 23-25 September. Its main aim will be to analyse which was and which is the characterization of women with regard to evil. In their own words: “We are fascinated by stories of real and fictional women who perpetrate evil deeds, experience evil as victims, fight against evil and take the blame as scapegoats for evil that exists in the world”. Proposals for various forms of contributions should be summited by 22nd April 2016.

Beyond the idea of evil, it might seem that nowadays the relation of women with the technological world is almost a deviation of the conventional ideas of femininity. In many contexts, mainly in Europe and in the US, the participation of women in this field is completely minority and in some societies women are even perceived not to be “natural technologists”. However, this has not always been the case. As Sarah Murray describes in the Financial Times: “In the US and much of Western Europe in the 1980s, (…), women collected almost 40 per cent of computer science degrees. Today, however, the figure is 15 to 20 per cent”. Leer más

Premi Dona TIC 2015


Dona TICA Catalunya, ha estat anunciada una nova iniciativa, el Premi Dona TIC 2015. Aquest projecte està organitzat per la Generalitat de Catalunya, a través d’idigital i per Tertúlia Digital, amb la col·laboració de l’Observatori Dona Empresa. Les candidatures poden ser proposades per qualsevol persona o entitat. Aquest premi s’atorga en quatre categories diferents: emprenedora, professional, acadèmica/investigadora i divulgadora.

El termini de presentació de candidatures és fins el 26 de novembre de 2015. La cerimònia d’entrega dels guardons tindrà lloc el proper 10 de desembre de 2015 a l’auditori de l’edifici imagina de Barcelona. Per a més informació i per accedir als formularis de presentació de candidatures consulteu la web oficial del Premi Dona TIC 2015.

Des d’aquesta Càtedra us animem a presentar les vostres iniciatives i a seguir promovent l’accés de les dones al sector de les TIC.

On the lack of interest of women in ICT studies and occupations

Gest post by Milagros Sáinz, Director of the “Gender and ICT” research group of IN3-UOC, in occasion of the International Women’s Day

Women embody a great share of enrollments in university studies in most western countries. For instance, in countries like Spain women are the majority in most university degrees and represent more than 60% of the enrollments in university degrees related to health sciences and humanities. But they remain underrepresented in studies and occupations with a large hard technological component, such as computer science and engineering. It is striking to observe how despite the numerous working opportunities that the production and design of ICT offer to both men and women, most women are not interested in working professionally in this field. Paradoxically, women that are highly identified with the prototypical view of ICT professionals and with an interest in this particular field tend to play a secondary role in the design and production of ICT technologies (the ‘hard’ aspect of the field). That is, they are in occupations where ICT is the tool rather than the target of their work, such as office and other clerical jobs (the ‘soft’ facet of this field).

Several factors seem to dishearten young women from entering engineering or the ICT field. Research drawing on social role theory concludes that the perception that computer science and ICT are technology-oriented rather than people-oriented may also cause women to express less interest in the field than men. In addition to this, girls’ lower self-perception of competence in ICT technologies seems to discourage them to pursue ICT studies and occupations. The fact that some educational systems (like the Spanish one) contain specific subjects associated with the teaching of computer science is a powerful tool for the analysis of why girls feel less competent in computers than boys. Hence, it is necessary to analyze to what extent in subjects where computing is taught and used as a complementary teaching tool, girls and boys are equally motivated to use computers and other technologies in the classroom.

Some other discouraging factors include the stereotypical masculine portrayal of engineering and ICT occupations, their lack of identification with this portrayal, or the dearth of female role models in these fields. In line with the previous lack of female role models, women’s contributions to several technological fields have remained invisible. For instance, few people (particularly schoolchildren and adolescents) know that Ada Byron (Lovelace after her marriage) have been often described as the world’s first computer programmer. Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Similarly, they ignore the name of Heydy Lamarr an Austrian-American inventor and film actress. Together with George Antheil, she co-invented the technology for spread spectrum and frequency hopping communication. This new technology became important to America’s military during World War II because it was used in controlling torpedoes. Those inventions have more recently been incorporated into Wi-FiCDMA and Bluetooth technology. Several other examples can be mentioned to illustrate this invisibility of the inheritance of women to technological production and development. Therefore, interventions in primary and secondary school contexts as well in different mass media should be carried out in order to change all the stereotypical portrayals of men’s and women’s contributions to technology and particularly to ICT.

Short bio


I graduated in Psychology at the University of Salamanca and received my PhD in Social Psychology (European Doctorate Degree) from the National University for Distance Education (UNED) in Madrid. I am currently working as a senior researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) in Barcelona. In 2007 my doctoral work was awarded with the First Prize INJUVE for Doctoral Dissertations by the former Ministry of Health, Equality, and Social Issues. I was a pre-doctoral research fellow at Stanford University (California, United States) and the Technical University in Berlin (Germany). Some years later, I was also a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan (Michigan, United States). Since January 2015 I am the director of the research group “Gender and ICT” of the UOC.

My research interests are related to family and school influences on study choices; gender role development during adolescence; gender stereotypes about ability self-concepts, achievement and task-choices; gendered construction of careers of occupations; and secondary school teachers’ and students’ attitudes towards technology and technological subjects. In addition, I am also interested in cross-cultural research on educational outcomes. For further information about her and the Gender and ICT research group, please visit our blog.

The US Government workforce is closing the gender pay gap, but reforms still needed, report says

Women working for the federal government earn less than men overall but the gap is shrinking, and most of the difference is the result of women being concentrated in lower-paying jobs with too few occupying the top ranks. It reflects the changing nature of federal employment: a shift away from occupations such as low-paying clerical jobs, disproportionately filled by women, and growth in higher-paying professional and administrative jobs that are increasingly held by women.

The Office of Personnel Management?s (OPM hereafter) study showed an overall gender pay gap for white-collar occupations of 12.7 percent in 2012, down from 19.8 percent in 2002 and 30 percent in 1992. However, some frustrating realities for women in government remain – e.g. agencies use special authorities to set higher starting salaries when hiring men than when hiring women.

Some of the disparity is based on occupation, the report said, adding that women receive promotions and performance-based increases slightly more frequently. Other factors that may be contributing to the pay gap include work experience, caregiving responsibilities, motivation and performance, which originates out from workplace and have deep social roots.

Read in full:

About Girls, Skills and Jobs, and MOOCs

Today around 7 million people work in the ICT sector. However, out of the ICT workforce only 30% are women. Women are underrepresented at all levels in the ICT sector, especially in decision-making positions. The ICT sector is rapidly growing creating around 120 000 new jobs every year. But due to differences in demands and skills – and despite the soaring European unemployment – there may be a lack of 700 000 skilled ICT workers in 2015:

Other estimates go even farther: While demand for employees with ICT skills is growing by around 3% a year, the number of graduates from computing sciences fell by 10% between 2006 and 2010. If this trend continues, there could be up to 900 000 unfilled ICT practitioners’ vacancies in the EU by 2015:

One way to reverse this negative trend is to encourage young people, and in particularly women, to take up an ICT-related career. The European Commission wants more to be done across Europe to inspire young women to get interested in ICT. This priority is reflected in the Digital Agenda’s pillar “Enhancing digital, literacy, skills and inclusion”, concretely in action 60, whereas it describes the aim of the Commission to increase the participation of women in the ICT workforce:

Some of the initiatives launched to create growth and jobs in Europe are the following:

* The Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs was identified as a key priority in the Digital Agenda Review adopted in December 2012.

* In January 2013, the Commission adopted the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan to unleash Europe’s entrepreneurial potential, unlock expertise, mentoring, technology and services; work with European investors in order to increase the flow of venture capital and crowd-funding (in particular for web start-ups); and stimulate the emergence of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and the setting up of platforms for mentoring and skill building:

More details can be found on the following websites:

Programa de Becas UNESCO-L´ORÉAL para mujeres en el campo de las Ciencias de la Vida

For Women in ScienceUna vez más, como en años anteriores, se pone en marcha la iniciativa conjunta entre la UNESCO y la Fundación Empresarial L’ ORÉAL con el fin de promover la presencia de la mujer en el área de las Ciencias de la Vida. Las becas se dirigen a jóvenes científicas, menores de 35 años, destacadas por sus trabajos de investigación.

La fecha límite para la presentación de las solicitudes individuales es el 30 de mayo de 2013 y se realiza en la plataforma on-line: www.fwis.fr

En el portal de la UNESCO y en la página web de la Fundación L’ORÉAL podéis encontrar toda la información sobre las investigadoras premiadas en la previa edición de este programa de becas internacionales.

Más información:


3rd Prize to Innovative Ideas for Apps in Mobile Environments

The UAM-Telefónica Chair is carrying out its 3d edition of the Prize to Innovation in Mobile Environments. This year, the focus will be on apps.

There will be 3 prizes, the first of them of 10.000 euros. To apply, you need to submit your idea within 4 pages max, in Spanish and with no need to describe the technical process to develop the app. You have time until the 31st of January 2013.

Anybody can submit their ideas, individuals, researchers and PYMES as well. The apps described in the proposals should be able to use Telefónica mobile networks.

There is a real chance that the company wants to develop your idea, and you will always preserve your copyright.

Read more and apply here.

Gender equality: from the grassroots of society to the political agenda

On October 1st, the UNESCO Chair in e-Learning participated in the final Roundtable of the research project “Professional trajectories of women in ICT: employment dynamics and policy responses in Spain & the UK”, that has been carried out by the Gender & ICT research program of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3). This project has analized the gender differences and consequent exclusion of women in ICT, in an academic dimension as well as in a professional and employment scale. The research has focused on comparing the cases between UK and Spain, with the help and experience of professionals from both countries and the financial support of spanish Instituto de la Mujer.

The study has also followed and analysed examples from governmental Spanish initiative Plan Avanza, which had a line of action on promoting gender inclusive policies among women in ICTs. At this point, when the design and effectiveness of the different policies and plans have been studied, the investigation has reached and end and it is time to rise up conclusions to draw the pattern of change.

Juliet Webster, currently the Director of the study, stated at the roundtable: “The change has to be made in the grassroots of society. Women have to start thinking in a non sexist way. For sustainable gender policies we need women in all jobs”. She highlighted the empowerment that women need in order to get fair and equal chances. Also she pointed out that all women should be aware that “the engagement with ICTs needs to be over the life course”.

But as Webster remembers in one of her last articles at Open Thoughts Blog, there are still a lot of gender “stubborn inequalities”, and we just need to look at the data: “Throughout the EU, women earn on average 18% less than their male counterparts with equivalent qualifications and experience. Women also remain remarkably under-represented in top jobs, disappearing from career ladders as they ascend. They only represent 16.1% of board members of Fortune 500 companies”.

Just 20% of graduate women worldwide have a computer science degree

Cecilia Castaño, who served as former Director and now is advisor for the current one, explained that at this crucial point of the investigation all the efforts have to be focused on giving quality information to governments and administrations so they can lead the change: “Governments should include the gender agenda in their policies. There should not be distinctions according to the ideologies of the parties. Mobilisation of different stakeholders is vital and this includes ensuring high-level political support”.

Nevertheless, Castaño remembered that there “have to be many other society actors involved: gender agencies, educational institutions, parents associations, companies and foundations. They all have to work together to achieve goals and incentivise women to take a leading role for this purpose”.

Researchers agree that further action and study need to be done; most important of all work is to “tackle the right stakeholders”. Many countries have failed in achieving such policies but others have obtained success, like Sweden. There is where researchers look up to. Measures should be designed from the basis of women needs (from bottom to top) and they need to be sustainable, meaning that they have to be checked and evaluated continuously to achieve long term results. And most important of all: for the implementation of these policies continuity of funding is fundamental, that is when gender policies will have a true real spot in the political agenda.


 Related Links:


El mundo necesita ciencia, la ciencia necesita mujeres (Programa UNESCO-L'ORÉAL)

Women in ScienceUNESCO-L’ORÉAL Programa internacional de becas “Por las mujeres en la ciencia”

El programa UNESCO – L’ORÉAL “Por las mujeres en la ciencia” es una iniciativa conjunta que busca promover la presencia de la mujer en la ciencia. El programa tiene diferentes niveles. En primer lugar, el Premio L’ORÉAL de mujeres científicas, galardón que reconoce la labor de las científicas más destacadas de todo el mundo siendo elegidas una por cada continente.

En segundo lugar, ha creado el programa internacional de becas para jóvenes científicas que se concede desde París. Y por último, las Bolsas de investigación para científicas que condece L’ORÉAL de cada país en que el grupo empresarial está presente y que se lleva a cabo con la presencia de las Comisiones Nacionales para la UNESCO.

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