Perspectives on challenges facing women in IS: the cognitive gender gap

Research paper by Margaret F Reid, Myria W Allen, Deborah J Armstrong, Cynthia K Riemenschneider

Indexed on: 08 Jun '10Published on: 08 Jun '10Published in: European Journal of Information Systems


The persistently low number of women in the information systems (IS) field has led to numerous inquiries about barriers women might face to entry and advancement in the profession. Because IS has traditionally been male dominated, masculine values tend to predominate in the profession. In the current study, same sex focus groups of male and female managers discussed challenges women in IS face that their male colleagues might not. By simultaneously analyzing the perceptions of male and female IS managers, we identified areas of overlap and divergence in the concepts as well as in the linkages between the concepts. Although the men and women's maps shared 10 concepts, none of the linkages between the concepts were the same in the two maps. We thus find that men and women have little cognitive overlap about the challenges that women face. Overall, male participants generally realize that women face a number of challenges associated with female gender role expectations, and more generally challenges they encounter in their workplaces and in the IS field. Their understanding of the challenges, however, appears to be superficial. We call on organizations and the IS profession to devise novel responses and training approaches to promote change in the IS culture.