Andra Gumbus and Frances Grodzinsky
Women as individuals experience subtle discrimination regarding career development opportunities as evidenced by research on the Glass Ceiling. This paper looks at the ramifications of technology, specifically the Internet, and how it affects women’s career opportunities. Some questions explored are:
- Are women less likely to use technology in their career development initiatives?
- How has the Glass Ceiling impacted women in the technology field?
- How has computer technology impacted networking as a career strategy?
- Are women adversely affected by the use of the Internet in securing employment?
- Does the use of Internet recruiting and paperless HR departments adversely impact women as candidates?
- Is the hierarchical male power structure maintained by the increased use of technology by corporate recruiters and other hiring managers?
Part One of the paper will investigate women and technology in general including issues of gender bias. It will examine the literature on women seeking careers in technology and look at women’s use of technology in their career development initiatives. Part Two will explore the glass ceiling in the area of ICT jobs and the obstacles to managerial advancement. Part Three will look at the issues of networking as a career strategy and how the Internet has impacted it. Part Four will examine the question of recruitment on line and ask if women are disadvantaged by paperless Human Resource Departments. The authors will show that for women to overcome gender bias, the glass ceiling and consequently under representation in upper level ICT management positions, there needs to be a change in educational practices and corporate culture.
In today’s workplace, computer skills are a prerequisite to prepare for jobs, but they do not ensure access to managerial or well paying jobs. Women, who eschew technology, limit themselves to traditional job searches, which may put them at a disadvantage. The Internet provides a wealth of information about companies, hiring practices and job opportunities to those with the skills to access the information. Posting resumes on Monster.com or searching job postings on university websites can often advantage a candidate for a job because of the speed and easy communication paths afforded by the Internet. The development and use of computers bestows power on the user and conversely, lack of power for those who are not connected.
As we become increasingly dependent upon technology in our lives, women must have equal access and ability to manipulate technology to advance their careers. Networking has moved on line. Online networking is effective using chat rooms, email and interest groups in a current or targeted industry. A web site is a good starting point to learn about a company, product line, key management profiled on a site, financials, annual reports or other information on a future employer. As a long-term strategy to manage careers, technology can be used to send an occasional email or informal chat to maintain contact, or pass along an article or Internet link to a past employer, colleague, search firm or others in the network. Online networking is also critical to notify your network of your new job, added responsibility, or other career enhancements so your network is familiar with your current situation and can represent you accurately (Gumbus, 2003).
Yet, there may be a downside for women posting resumes on Internet sites. Moor (1997) speaks of computerized information as greased data and states, ” our challenge is to take advantage of computing without allowing computing to take advantage of us. When information is computerized, it is greased to slide easily and quickly to many ports of call. This makes information retrieval quick and convenient, but legitimate concerns about privacy arise when this speed and convenience lead to the improper exposure of information.” The resulting electronic footprints of information collected for one purpose can be used for another. Our privacy can be invaded despite attempts to guard and secure computerized information. This may discourage women from using electronic media in their job searches if they are not familiar with ways to hide personal data.
Is the culture of ICT companies changing to be more inclusive to women? Business organizations are experiencing increased pressure to value diversity in employment in order to attract a diverse customer base in our increasingly global marketplace. Logically, this trend should exploit the talents represented by women and help them gain access to the top positions in organizations. Legislation and affirmative action quotas do not easily mandate ethical and equitable treatment regarding assignments and high profile opportunities. Our study will explore the promotional opportunities for women to break through the glass ceiling (lack of upward mobility for women and minorities into executive ranks in corporate jobs today) in ICT including networking opportunities, mentoring by senior women, assignments that are visible and of high importance, and being technologically competent. Traditionally, the road to the top positions has been described as blocked by corporate prejudice resulting in lack of support for women and sponsors (mentors). In 1986, the biggest obstacle was labeled as intangible, ” men at the top feel uncomfortable with women beside them.” (Hymowitz and Schellhardt, 1986). These authors predicted that the glass ceiling may be reduced in some fields but technology was not one of them. Is that still true today? Have we seen changes? The paper will try to answer these questions and examine what we lose if women do not have a significant impact in the design of technology.
To find out answers to some of our questions the authors queried human resource managers. They were asked to respond to the following questions in order to assess the impact of technology on recruitment practices as it affects women.
- Do you post positions on the web?
- What sites do you use?
- Are web, email and snail mail responses treated differently? How?
- In your opinion, do candidates protect their personal identity when submitting a resume?
- Can you give examples of how someone protected identity when using technology to apply for a job.
- Are women as likely as men to use technology in searching for a job? Why?
The paper will discuss the results of this survey and the implications for women in the ICT field.
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