Idaho – Big Labor Pool, Small Talent
The state of Idaho is currently experiencing record unemployment. Yet,
despite a large labor pool of applicants to pick from, technology related
businesses are having trouble finding qualified individuals to fill their
voided positions. The amount of experienced, specialized high-tech
workers is dismal, which could hurt Idaho's ability to compete nationally
and globally in a booming field. "In 2009, the computer programming
field generating an estimated 395 job openings in Idaho, yet the state
produced only 24 graduates in the field." Likewise, the information
technology field opened up roughly 929 positions and had only 162
graduates to fill those spots (Sewell 2).
Even more astounding than the low overall number of Idahoan's in the
technology field is the extremely small proportion of women involved.
Women leaders in the field of technology are few and far between in the
state of Idaho. In fact, the Idaho Technology Council and the Idaho
Innovation Council have a combined six women out of a group of fifty-
four council and board members.
New Media, A Critical Introduction talks about how unequal
patterns of access are likely to be the dominant shaping for of
the global character of ICT use. Access to computers and the
internet will, if anything, exacerbate existing social inequalities
(182). “Not only is access to online resources globally uneven, it
has also been show that the digital divide mirrors income
inequality in Western countries.” (185) Nation states experience
lines of divide as much as third world countries do. In fact, New
Media identifies eight different elements that contribute to lines of
divide, that revolve around:
The ability to contribute and locate useful content
Additionally, in 2007, the U.S. Department of Commerce
reported that urban households with incomes of $150,000+
were three times as likely to have access to the broadband
internet than those with incomes less than $25,000. Whites
are also more likely to have computer access than Black or
Hispanic individuals (185).
Essentially, New Media is pointing out that the richest country
in the world still has gaps in access to new media across
income, ethnicity, and gender (although the gap between
men and women in the US is narrowing). Likewise, the
purpose of content and what it might be used for also
differentiates across income (186). Knowing this raises the
issue of making certain that this research looks into the
racial ethnicities of Idahoans as well as their relative income
(as a whole, and by race and gender). These elements
could serve as key findings in my research.
In addition to researching economic statistics and exploring the
racial population of Idaho, it will be important to look at how
Idahoans treat media at home in everyday life. New Media tells
us that the existing layout of space in ones home affects the
ways in which technologies are used. Likewise, social
constraints have significant effects on the way sin which
computers and networks are accessed (244-246). It will be
important to study the socio-economic factors, established
household politics, and relationships of gender and age when
looking into the types of access women did/did not have to
computers growing up, and design my survey and interview
questions in a way that addresses these concerns.
When Heather Horst and Daniel Miller conducted their research for
The Cell Phone: Anthropology of Communication, they felt it was
important to capture both the rural and urban setting in order to
get an overall picture of cell phone use in Jamaica (42).
Following their lead, I must be careful not to bias the results of
my study by narrowing my population to that of one
race/class/gender, etc. It will be important to conduct my
research not only in the larger, urban sites of Boise, Idaho Falls,
and Pocatello, but include smaller, more rural and ethnically
This is where my curious mind wants to know
Why is there such a lack of women
studying/interested in technology in Idaho?
What social, cultural, and economic factors play in
to this lack of female representation?
What social, cultural and economic
factors inhibit or create possibilities for
computer access by young women in
southern Idaho and how does this affect
the development of their future careers
in technology related fields?
What is the male to female ratio of Idaho
students pursuing careers in IT and
computer science and how can any large
gap between genders be explained?
I came up with a number of sub-questions stemming from
my two main research questions:
What opportunities do women have for access to
What are the family ‘norms’ surrounding
children/teen computer use, and how does this
differ between genders?
How does the Idaho school system delegate
computer access and the types of programs being
used by students?
What emphasis are being placed on math and
science in the school system? Are males being
led towards these disciplines more than
Is use of the computer considered to be ‘masculine’ or
Does this inhibit one gender in any way?
How is women’s access to the computer
VALUED….what types of access (or lack of
access) have they had to technology in the past?
What are the social/cultural structures surrounding
females and their use of the computer?
What social constraints might exist that cause
women to stay away from computers related
What are women interested in studying? Is
computer science/IT appealing for women? Why
or why not?
Will pursue a relationship with other Idaho
organizations that might be interested in helping
enhance and conduct the study:
Girls in Tech, Boise sector
“Girls in Tech is focused on the engagement, education,
and empowerment of like-minded, professional, intelligent
and influential women in technology working on the
collaboration, promotion, growth, and success of women
in the technology sector.”
Idaho Technology Council
Connects, informs and promotes tech companies in Idaho
and seeks to foster the growth of technology companies
in the state
To gain a broad understanding of general questions
regarding access (at home and in the education
system), social norms and personal preferences
Face to face interviews (75)
To attain further feedback on why women feel the way
they do about technology and what might have lead
them to that point
Focus groups of 10-15
To collectively brainstorm
High school seniors
Idaho State Department of Education for permission
and location assignments
Available colleges: College of S. Idaho, Boise State,
Idaho State, Northwest Nazarene University, College
Approximately 200 surveys from each group
General background questions (gender,
Exposure to technology throughout youth
Opportunities for use and skill
o In school and in the home
• Promotion of technology related careers
in ones’ life
o Comfort level with media technology
o Identify reasons for lack of computer
exposure, if any
Social norms surrounding use and
Thoughts towards technology and desire
to study it
Face to Face Interviews
Approximately 50 interviews
College upperclassmen ages 22-25
Find out how they ended up choosing their
career path, why they chose it, what factors in
their life contributed to this decision
More computer specific questions
Exposure, access and usage
Career growth opportunities
Groups of 10-15 individuals
High school seniors, college
Personal feelings and cultural norms
surrounding computer usage
Exposure throughout different life phases
Home, school, work
Personal interests in computers (why or
Difference of interests between genders
This research project addresses some of the many themes we hit
on in this this class, focusing on the digital divide in light of race,
class and most specifically, gender. As we've learned, technology
isn't just digital; physical networks play a big role as well. As
pointed out by Warren Sack in Structures of Participation in
Digital Culture, the way our real-world relationships are
conducted influences the way we use and approach technology
and new media. Likewise, the authors of New Media tell us that
physical and social constraints throughout time and space can
restrict or enhance our access to technology and the way we
view it. Certainly, social constraints might limit certain genders or
age groups from accessing computers. Likewise, social norms
within culture might affect the way different genders and social
classes use technology. This could be a well known established
right given to a certain group of individuals, or it could be an
unspoken way of life.
Ties to Class Themes & Discussions
For instance, in Who Owns Native Culture, we saw that in some cultures,
certain rights and rituals are only granted to specific genders, age
groups, martial statuses, etc. At other times, rules of access are
unspoken; certain individuals might simply be discouraged from or
looked down upon for using or accessing technology in certain ways. As
we can come to expect, the Idahoans studied in this research will likely
differ in their ability to access computers along these same lines as well.
What will be important is pulling out the existing social norms and socio-
economic factors that facilitate or inhibit their computer access.
Horst and Miller’s The Cell Phone goes beyond the issue of access to talk
about how the use of technology differs along these same lines of age,
class, race, and gender. In addition, the authors talk about how access to
technology can open up many doors for individuals it might not normally
open. Technology creates new ways of approaching work, relationships,
communication, and the building ones own identity. At the same time, not all
people choose to use technology in the same way. In The Cell Phone, the
use of technology in Jamaica varies by age, class, gender, etc. For
example, females were much more likely to use the cell phone for social
purposes, while makes were more include to make work related phone calls.
The research done by Horst and Miller indicates it will be very likely that
computer usage in Idaho will vary along those same elements as well.
Ties to Class Themes & Discussions
Lastly, Poster tells us that one forms their identity based upon the
framework of technology of power; information machines allow
individuals to exist outside the boundaries of corporeal space
and construct new identities in the realm of cyber space.
However, this can actually been seen as a compromise to ones'
identity. It takes what was once someone’s personal, private
notion self and transforms it into a number or a birthday- that can
be 'stolen' by means of 'identity theft'. Do individuals get a sense
of empowerment from the creation of this new identity, and does
that vary across race, class, age, and gender? How do women in
Idaho negotiate this issue? Do they feel this concept of
jeopardizing ones' identity is a reason to stay away from
computers and the new media associated with them?
Ties to Class Themes & Discussions
Literature ReviewAAUW Educational Foundation, First. Tech-Savvy:Educating Girls in the New
Computer Age . Washington, D.C.: American Association of University Women
Educational Foundation, 2000.
This book recognizes that computers are now part of the everyday classroom
and seeks to understand how they can be used to enhance teaching and
learning in ways that promote female involvement. The main themes of the book
address the reservations girls have about the computer culture, the concerns
teachers having using technology in the classroom, and causes for concern in
regards to female’s current participation in the computer realm through the
lenses of education, economics and culture. This book will serve as a great
starting point for my research to gain some background on classroom culture
surrounding women and computers and to understand where (on a broad scale)
women lie in the computer participation spectrum.
Battey, Daniel, et al. “Professional Development for Teachers on Gender Equity in
the Sciences: Initiating the Conversation.” Teachers College Record 109.1
(2007): 221-243. America: History & Life. EBSCO. Web. 15 Nov. 2010.
This article examines a study conducted during 1993-2001 which showed that
professional development projects for schoolteachers fell short of effectively
addressing gender inequity in the classroom, particularly in relation to science,
technology, engineering and mathematics. What seemed to be significantly
lacking from teachers in their ability to present technical content to girls
effectively. Understanding how the school system prevents females from
obtaining the same type of exposure to technology as men receive will be helpful
in examining how this affects women throughout their education and careers.
Literature Review Cont.Blum, Lenore, and Carole Frieze. “The Evolving Culture of Computing.” Frontiers: A
Journal of Women Studies 26.1 (2005): 110-115. America: History & Life.
EBSCO. Web. 15 Nov. 2010.
The authors of this article state that “most students of gender and computer
science have been conducted in gender-imbalanced environments.” To combat
this, researchers make suggestions to help close these significant gender
differences. One such method of heightening the female interest in computers
and technology described in the article saw the number of women entering
computer science majors at Carnegie Mellon increase nearly fivefold in only four
years. Understanding what types of programs draw females to become more
interested in computers will help us to understand what qualities of current
educational and social systems are lacking that keep women from further
exposure to computers.
Dunbar-Hester, Christina. “Beyond “Dudecore”? Challenging Gendered and “Raced”
Technologies Through Media Activism.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic
Media 54:1 (2010): 121-135.
This article follows a group of media activists whose work foregrounds
communication technologies and technical practice. These activists attempt to
transform the media system by broadening access to technology and skills, with
the intent for technological engagement to be compatible with a range of social
identities. Specifically, they promote hands-on work with technology and
technological competence, which, as they claim, has evidently been shaped by
social structures that contribute to differences in familiarity and comfort with
electronics across genders. This study does not attempt to account for those
differences, but instead focuses on the “activists’ attempts to confront and
transform these differences.”
Literature Review Cont.Farmer, Lesley. Teen Girls and Technology: What’s the Problem, What's the
Solution?. Chicago, IL: American Library Assocation, 2008
In this book, Lesley Farmer examines the disconnect that many girls have with
technology and then tackles the almighty question of: how do we kick-start girls’
involvement with technology? By providing a framework that teachers and
parents can use to “empower girls to succeed in today’s technology-rich world”,
Farmer hopes to supply real-world techniques that actually work. She highlights
several after-school and fun learning activities that have been shown to increase
young women’s confidence and promote their interests in technology. This
information should be quite relevant in regards to analyzing the programs that
might be found within current school systems and looking at the ways they work
to promote female computer usage.
Fenwick, Tara. "What happens to the girls? gender, work and learning in Canada's
'new economy' 1." Gender & Education 16.2 (2004): 169-185. Academic Search
Complete. EBSCO. Web. 17 Nov. 2010.
This article studies the gender inequalities that exist in both access to and
experience of learning opportunities in Canada’s ‘New Economy’ that promotes
equal knowledge and work related learning opportunities. More relevant to this
study is the discussion on current provision for girls’ vocational education and the
gendered issues they face entering the labor market, including the ways in which
this can be combated. In particular, the article talks about gender-sensitive career
education for girls. Understanding how gendered issues change with changing social
Literature Review Cont.
"Girls email their way into male internet culture." Times higher education
supplement. (1999): 6..
This short article describes the results of research done at Sheffield and
Loughborough universities regarding internet use in rural and urban schools. The
study claims that schools emphasizg the communicative aspects of information
technology are likely to attract more girls than those who do not. “Girls are much
more likely to be attracted to email than boys and can become interested in
computer programming from there.” With this increased interest in computers,
females are beginning to challenge the masculine stereotypes surrounding IT.
Imhanlahimi, E. O., and F. E. Eloebhose. "Problems and Prospects of Women
Access to Science and Technology Education in Nigeria." College Student
Journal 40.3 (2006): 583-587. Humanities International Index. EBSCO. Web. 17
This article highlights the importance of science and technology in the
development of nations by analyzing real life circumstances in Nigeria. In this
study, researchers found that Nigeria cannot achieve scientific and technological
growth without the full participation of women. Although historically women have
been held back in accessing technology, new trends are calling for the
importance of female participation in nation building to be recognized. Now, the
nation is calling on everyone to contribute to the promotion of female access to
science and technology education in Nigeria. Using this study, it will be
interesting to examine the relationship between female empowerment and their
Literature Review Cont.
Jensen, Jennifer, Suzanne de Castell, and Mary Bryson. ““Girl Talk”: gender, equity
and identity discourses in a school-based computer culture.” Women’s Studies
International Forum 26:6 (2003): 561-573.
This article discusses a feminist intervention project in Canada focused on giving
females more equitable access to and use of computers. This project, conducted
at Brookwood Elementary School, allowed for the female students to develop
and experience new identities as technology ‘experts’ within their school. This
resulted in not only a significant increase in the participants knowledge of
technology, but also resulted in a shift in the way they talked about and voiced
their own gender identities with their teachers and peers. By the end of the
experience, participants had become more vocal about what they saw as gender-
biased practices conducted in the classroom and throughout the school. Their
new willingness to stand up against these inequitable practices ultimately created
“a more supportive climate for the advancement of gender equity beyond the
confines of its computer labs.” By no means do the authors claim to have found a
‘cure’ or ‘prescription for change’ regarding gender-biased school practices,
however, they identify the need for an understanding of the resiliency of this
standard and suggest one way of beginning to break down the traditional walls
that have been upheld for generations.
Literature Review Cont.Kelan, Elisabeth. Performing Gender at Work. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan,
“The advent of new technologies is aid to change the world of work dramatically.
But is gender changing as well?” This book is a fresh perspective on the rapidly
changing relationship between gender and technology, which is constantly
shifting in regards to changing demographics, employee expectations and
business needs. Put together based on a research study of two companies in
Switzerland, the book challenges the reader to “think about the ways in which the
evolving economy shapes new gender inequities”, particularly within ICT work.
This book will have some great insight regarding new ways of thinking about how
gender is seen at work and how gender is done in contemporary high-tech fields.
Lupart, Judy, and Elizabeth Cannon. "Computers and Career Choices: Gender
Differences in Grades 7 and 10 Students." Gender Technology and Development
6.2 (2002): 233-248. Web. 17 Nov 2010.
This article looks into research that investigates the relationships between school
culture, socialization, ability, gender and values and the relative degree of
influence on adolescent student choice in courses, programs, and activities
(particularly related to math and science). By investigating this relationship, the
authors hope to understand why there is increasing evidence that there will not
be enough people with the necessary math and science expertise to keep up
with the ever-growing technologies of the world. The article then focuses on
gender, by grade, to compare several questions that pertain to computer interest
and usage and student choices concerning desirable career characteristics/future
careers. This will be useful to compare the career interests of girls in comparison
to those of males and evaluate what career qualities girls find appealing.
Literature Review Cont.
Miller, Paige, R. Sooryamoorthy, Meredith Anderson, Anthony Palackal, Wesley
Schrum. “Gender and Science in Developing Areas: Has the Internet Reduced
Inequality?” Social Science Quarterly 87 (2006): 679-689.
This paper examines the impact of the Internet and the research careers of
female scientists in three developing areas: Ghana, Kenya and Kerala, India.
Findings show that women are less likely to acquire advanced degrees, and are
more likely to experience “localism” in the educational and organizational realm.
This idea of localism places constraints on physical mobility which creates career
differentials between male and female professionals. Even though education and
Internet access has increased dramatically in these areas, without removing the
communication restraints caused by localism, women will still be held back in
progressing their careers forward.
Palackal, Anthony. "Gender Stratification and E-Science: Can the Internet
Circumvent Patrifocality?." New Infrastructure for Knowledge Production:
Understanding E-Science. 'Ed'. Christine Hine. Hershey: Idea Group Publishing,
This study investigates the degree to which the internet affects the constraints on
women pursuing scientific careers in the developing world. The authors address
this question by studying the way information and communication technologies
shape gender roles amongst professional scientists in India. After assessing the
extent to which women scientists have gained access to e-science technologies,
the authors conclude that internet connectivity is helping women scientists to
“circumvent, but not yet undermine, the patrifocal social structure that reduces
social capital and impedes career development.”
Literature Review Cont.
Sadker, David, Myra Sadker, and Karen Zittleman. Still Failing at Fairness: How Gender Bias Cheats Girls and
Boys in School and What We Can Do About It. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2009.
These authors work together to provide an in-depth look at how both the male and female educations are
compromised from elementary school through college. School practices, the authors claim, send boys and
girls down different life paths and often inhibit each gender from pursuing certain lines of study. Teaching
methods, current testing practices, and subtle cultural attitudes are all major players that inhibit both genders
of every race, class and ethnicity from receiving the same types of education influences. Taking a look at this
information can help us to gain a better understanding of where the inequalities stem from and the kinds of
treatment females receive that could inhibit them from getting the access to technology that would put them
on a equal playing field with males.
Sewell, Cynthia. "Idaho has a big labor pool, but a small talent pool. Idaho Statesman 06/03/2010.
This article discusses the current state of the technology field in Idaho and why there is a lack of students
graduating in the field.
Shrum, Wesley and Meredith Anderson. “Circumvention and Social Change: ICTs and the Discourse of
Empowerment.” Women’s Studies in Communication 30:2 (2007): 229-253.
In this essay, the authors use 10 years of experience gained while conducting research in south India to
present a theoretical interpretation of the impact of information and communication technologies in the
country. It dives into the social implications of the specific relationship between gender inequity and
information and communication technologies, “under conditions of patrifocality that characterize the Indian
subcontinent.” After taking into account the differences between the western definition of female
empowerment versus the type of empowerment available to women in less developed countries, the authors
provide a general comparison between the lives of women in India and those in western countries with
regards to technology. Taking their very different social structures into account, they look to interpret the
impact of these technologies on local practices of gender stratification.
Literature Review Cont.
Wajcman, Judy. TechnoFeminism. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2004.
This book claims technoscientific advances are overhauling the relationship
between women and machines. But instead arguing that the technologies
themselves are the cause of this shift, the author argues that feminist politics are
what is really making the difference. “Drawing on new perspectives in
postmodern feminist theory and science and technology studies, the author
explores the ways in which technologies are gendered both in design and in
use.” From that, she is able to combine the concepts of ‘cyberfeminism’ with the
gendered politics surrounding technology.
Yelland, Nicole and Andee Rubin, eds. Ghosts in the Machine: Women's Voices in
Research with Technology. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, 2002. Print.
Written by women in four countries on three continents, Ghosts and the Machine
examines the relationship between gender and ICT and discusses the
“educational, social, artistic, and political implications of a feminine voice in the
design of technology.” It dives into the gendering of technology, exploring the
social context of the Internet, computer games, computer based designs and
digital art in an attempt to make women’s role in these technologies heard. In
what is sure to provide many interesting insights, this book will have a lot to offer
discussions on the feminization of technology and the gendering of IT.