Girls’ choices of IT careers - A nexus analytic inquiry

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Remote connection

Topic of the dissertation

Girls’ choices of IT careers - A nexus analytic inquiry

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science Fanny Vainionpää

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, INTERACT

Subject of study

Information processing science


Dosentti Liisa von Hellens, Griffith University


Associate professor Marianne Kinnula , University of Oulu

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Dissertation on girls’ choices of IT careers

This thesis contributes to research on girls' choices of IT careers by demonstrating the complexity of the issue. The thesis shows how old ways of thinking are recycled, high schools guide girls’ choices of IT, and that women’s career choice can be viewed as a process that can fluctuate. The data for this research was gathered within a project aiming to provide high school students knowledge about the IT field. The research is based on questionnaires, interviews, group discussions, observations, and essays, participants include high school students, teachers, study guidance counsellors, university students, and IT professionals. Qualitative methods helped develop an in-depth understanding of this phenomenon.

The high school students in this study do not have knowledge of IT careers, and their experiences with technology are heavily gendered. In their free time, the high schoolers mainly use mobile devices and entertainment, which is not considered ‘real IT’, whereas schoolwork is the boring, real IT work. The position of IT is problematic in Finnish secondary education because the curriculum assumes IT skills are learned by using software in other studies. IT teachers rarely have the chance to talk about the IT field with high schoolers as the optional courses are not chosen. Study guidance counsellors aim to introduce many different fields equally, and it can be challenging to understand the fields they have no personal experience from. Ultimately, people at home, school, and in the larger society can influence girls’ choice.

The results of this thesis show that traditional norms, assumptions, and gendered understandings of IT support educational and occupational gender segregation. High school education excludes IT and is uninformative regarding IT careers, thus leaving it to the students to learn about IT employment options. Girls can be unintentionally excluded from IT by others and intentionally excluded by the girls themselves. High school can be places where problematic discourses, interactions, and histories come together to exclude girls from IT. While girls’ and women’s discourses regarding IT remain largely unchanged compared to results in earlier research, the girls and women can shift between different discourses on IT careers, and some end up in the field. As part of this research, an IT course concept offers one way to broaden high schoolers’ understanding of the IT field. Women are underrepresented in information technology disciplines such as information systems, which has several impacts on individuals and society.

We need diversity among technology designers and developers to ensure it serves the needs of the variety of people using the products, systems, and services. As we make our career choices early on, this research focused on girls in Finnish secondary education and what influences their choices regarding IT careers. Career choice has been described as a path or a pipeline, but this thesis shows that women’s thoughts about the field and their abilities can develop after secondary education. Therefore, it is important to provide the opportunity to choose IT in adulthood.
Last updated: 1.3.2023