The Undoing of Gender by Senior Female Leaders Within New Zealand’s ICT Industry
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The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry is one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing and well-remunerated industries. Within New Zealand’s ICT industry, the average salary is $82,000, compared to the country’s average salary of $47,868 (AbsoluteIT, 2016a). Despite the Government’s initiatives to encourage young women into this industry, women are still vastly under- represented, comprising only 20% of the industry (Statistics New Zealand, 2018). The barriers for women working in male-dominated industries such as the ICT industry are well documented in the ‘women in ICT’ literature (Cater-Steel & Cater, 2010; Griffiths & Moore, 2010; Kirton & Robertson, 2018). However, how gender constructs and social interactions can be undone within the ICT industry, and women’s agency in this remains under researched. This study investigates how senior women in ICT have challenged and changed these barriers, and why they chose to. This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews to investigate the experiences of 12 senior female leaders in New Zealand’s ICT industry. An interpretive descriptive methodology was employed to guide this study (Smythe, 2012). The findings identified that social interactions, negative behaviours from female colleagues and the under representation of females in technical roles continued to maintain and construct gender within the ICT industry. However, this study found that senior female leaders in ICT are actively challenging gendered barriers, stereotypes and interactions through their actions. Additionally, participants are creating positive change by calling out negative social interactions and by supporting other women through their representation and visibility as female leaders in the ICT industry. Furthermore, this thesis identified what factors supported and influenced participants into undoing gender. Thus, this study not only focused on the barriers for women within the ICT industry but also identified how senior female leaders are making change within the ICT industry. This study practically provided insights into male-dominated organisations and the ICT industry by identifying what is needed to dismantle gendered constructs.