Role of Inclusion and Critical Theory: Rebranding the IS Major for All Students
Amy J. Connolly James Madison University
Abstract The IS major (and indeed, all STEM and computing disciplines) has seen a sharp decline in enrollments since the dotcom bust (Scott et al. 2009). Well before that, computing disciplines have struggled to understand why fewer women want to enter the field year after year, while ignoring women’s individual differences (Trauth et al. 2008). Jung et al. (2017) suggested that perhaps women do not see enough referential examples in media, in essence blaming victims for not choosing the major despite its overly technical image (Scott et al. 2009). Media stories about rampant sexism and abuse in tech companies only compound this problem. If stereotypes are permanently established in childhood, then no amount of recruitment will help enrollments. In actuality, the need for inclusion in IS is much more nuanced.
The Individual Differences Theory of Gender and IT states that women are not an unknown, amorphous black box nor an “other”. Significant “within-female variation” of many factors affects whether women choose to work in IT (Trauth et al. 2012). The IS field has always struggled with an identity problem; it has now become a self-image problem. If faculty hope to improve how students view the IS major, they need to incorporate a systems view into rebranding the IS major. If faculty cannot discern IT from IS (Firth et al. 2008), then their own stereotypes work against them. How can faculty better brand the IS major to appeal to students of every gender and race?
In 2010, men made up 84% of computer and IS majors (Goudreau 2010, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics). It’s feasible that healthcare IS programs could uniquely see a higher proportion of women majors versus purely business IS or business analytics programs, due to stereotypes of healthcare support work. Anecdotally, at one school, the introduction of a healthcare IS major increased enrollment of women, and in particular, minority women to nearly equal representation. The new program was in fact more technical than the general IS program but it was marketed to students with a strong interest in healthcare. This phenomenon may have occurred due to marked differences in how IS was branded and presented to students as a potential major.
Students’ perceptions of the IS major as highly technical or masculine can change as they gain experience in the major, suggesting that the major needs to better promote itself as all-inclusive (Joshi and Schmidt 2006; Kvasny 2006). In order to do that, faculty need to incorporate critical and constructivist theories into the pedagogy (Kea et al. 2004) as well as research. IS research rarely uses these methods or publishes these kinds of articles, which means many professors do not know much about them. This session is to present these ideas, to ask for feedback and find volunteers to add inclusive exercises to their classes and perhaps join a group research project to incorporate a constructivist approach. Although faculty cannot force students to choose this major, they can “guide and cultivate its brand, [not] let it be defined on its behalf” (Hyder 2014).
Keywords: Women in Technology, Diversity, Inclusion, IS Identity, Introduction to IS
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Recommended Citation: Connolly, A. J., (2017). Role of Inclusion and Critical Theory: Rebranding the IS Major for All Students. Proceedings of the EDSIG Conference, (2017) n.4457, Austin, Texas