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An investigation of gendered institutions and the ideal worker narrative in the Scottish ICT industry.

Riley, Lauren


Lauren Riley


Emmanuelle Rey-Marmonier


This study critically investigates gendered organisational barriers in the Scottish technology industry, in an effort to understand the impact on gender-minority workers and the most effective ways to support those workers at the firm level. Aspects of organisational culture, gendered discourses between workers and horizontal and vertical job divisions are considered in the formulation of an ideal worker narrative, which privileges some workers and marginalises others. The Scottish ICT sector presented opportunities for the study of this phenomena; Scotland is a region increasingly reliant on the economic contributions of skilled technical workers and the ICT sector, while the ICT sector has long been an area of gender divisions and a focus for equalities work in Westernized countries. The empirical research undertaken in this study adopts a multiple case study approach, wherein three ICT firms are investigated. Qualitative data collection was undertaken, including semi-structured interviews along with documentation analysis. Through the application of multiple methods, differing perspectives were collected to inform the description of the ideal worker narrative, covering the firm, and male and female workers. The study included 46 interviews in total - 23 with male employees and 23 with female employees - as well as 188 artefacts from across all three case study firms, evidencing firm policy, employer branding and external assessments. Thematic analysis was used to describe the ways in which gendered substructures persist within each organisation and findings across firms were synthesised to identify wider industry trends. Key findings from this study illustrate that, whilst progress has been made in the efforts of Scottish ICT firms to attract, support and retain female workers, there remains a significant difference in the experiences, aspirations, pay and self-efficacy of men and women in the sector. Moreover, these gendered differences favour male workers and continue to marginalise female workers. These disparities, in the context of firms considered to be at the forefront of gender equality in the sector, indicate that there is a disconnect between equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policies and their implementation. The findings additionally indicate that workers are more likely to consider a firm culture as inclusive if there is clear evidence that efforts are being taken and supported at the leadership level, and if there is transparency regarding the progress of these efforts. As such, it was concluded that firms should encourage the use of EDI initiatives at the leadership level, provide data regarding the firm's progress towards EDI goals and seek regular feedback from workers to better capture the efficacy of EDI efforts. This study also contributes to the shift in academic discourses of gender and the decoupling of personality, characteristics and skillsets from biological sex through the application of an updated theoretical framework. Specifically, firm-level influences on the preferred traits and demographics of workers are explored, along with the impact on traditionally marginalised workers. Adding to contemporary academic discourses on gender diversity within the ICT sector, this study builds upon an evaluation of equality work undertaken by case study firms to inform organisations of the current experiences of male and female workers in the field, and the most effective ways to support and retain historically marginalised workers.


RILEY, L. 2020. An investigation of gendered institutions and the ideal worker narrative in the Scottish ICT industry. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 8, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jun 8, 2021
Keywords Gender discrimination in the workplace; Gender and employment; Gender diversity; Gendered organisations; ICT sector; ICT industry; Scotland
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