The case for responsibility of the IT industry to promote equality for women in computing

Science and Engineering Ethics 7 (2):247-260 (2001)
Abstract
This paper investigates the relationship between the role that information technology (IT) has played in the development of women’s employment, the possibility of women having a significant influence on the technology’s development, and the way that the IT industry perceives women as computer scientists, users and consumers. The industry’s perception of women and men is investigated through the portrayal of them in computing advertisements. While women are increasingly updating their technological skills and know-how, and through this process are entering some positions in the workplace traditionally occupied by men, these achievements are not mirrored in their social and occupational status. The computer industry and higher education have worryingly low numbers of women, while the possibility of women influencing the development of computer technology is just emerging in feminist research. This paper argues that, though the IT industry, through their self-regulatory codes, subscribes to equal treatment of sexes, races and persons with disabilities, the industry nevertheless paints a stereotyped picture of inequality when portraying men and women in computer advertisements. As long as such a perception of women prevails within the industry, it will stand as a barrier to women having equal access to computer technology. If advertisements influence the way society perceives major social constructs and issues, then the computing industry has a social responsibility to portray men and women in an equal and non-stereotypical fashion.
Keywords computer ethics  gender equality  information technology  stereotypes  technology development
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