From the woman question in technology to the technology question in feminism: Rethinking gender equality in IT education

  • Henwood F
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Abstract

There have, by now, been a number of thorough-going critiques of what has variously been called the ‘equality’, ‘equity’ or ‘liberal’ approach to understanding ‘the woman problem in technology’ by those who would prefer to focus on ‘the technology question in feminism’. Most of these critiques adopt deconstructivist techniques to expose the limitations of equality approaches, including, most centrally, their assumptions about the neutrality of technology and the limited nature of equality programmes designed simply to increase access for women to that technology. However, the critiques themselves have so far failed to come up with convincing alternative interventionist strategies, either because the universalizing tendency of their theoretical perspective gives rise to interventions that fail to deal with the diverse and fragmented nature of women's experiences and needs, or because recognition of this diversity and fragmentation leaves very little common ground on which to build successful intervention strategies. This article addresses this dilemma in the context of computing and IT education and draws on empirical research on women's experiences of computing and IT in two different educational settings where issues of gender difference and equality were managed in very contrasting ways. It then offers some suggestions for how both a critical and constructivist discourse on technology might be made to coexist in educational programmes designed to promote gender equality.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Computing
  • Education
  • Equality
  • Gender
  • Technology

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Authors

  • Flis Henwood

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