EDSIGCON Proceedings 2017

EDSIGCON Proceedings 2017

Austin, Texas

Conference Highlights

2017 EDSIG Proceedings - Abstract Presentation

Role of Inclusion and Critical Theory: Rebranding the IS Major for All Students

Amy J. Connolly
James Madison University

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


Firth, D., Lawrence, C., and Looney, C. A. 2008. "Addressing the Is Enrollment Crisis: A 12-Step Program to Bring About Change through the Introductory Is Course," Communications of the Association for Information Systems (23:1), p. 2. Goudreau, J. 2010. "Most Popular College Majors for Women," in: Forbes. Hyder, S. 2014. "7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand," in: Forbes. Joshi, K. D., and Schmidt, N. L. 2006. "Is the Information Systems Profession Gendered?: Characterization of Is Professionals and Is Career," ACM SIGMIS Database (37:4), pp. 26-41. Jung, L., Clark, U. Y., Patterson, L., and Pence, T. 2017. "Closing the Gender Gap in the Technology Major," Information Systems Education Journal (15:1), p. 26. Kea, C., Campbell-Whatley, G. D., and Richards, H. V. 2004. "Becoming Culturally Responsive Educators: Rethinking Teacher Education Pedagogy," N.C.f.C.R.E. Systems (ed.). Denver, CO. Kvasny, L. 2006. "Let the Sisters Speak: Understanding Information Technology from the Standpoint of The'other'," ACM SIGMIS Database (37:4), pp. 13-25. Scott, C., Fuller, M. A., MacIndoe, K. M., and Joshi, K. D. 2009. "More Than a Bumper Sticker: The Factors Influencing Information Systems Career Choices," Communications of the Association for Information Systems (24:1), p. 2. Trauth, E. M., Cain, C., Joshi, K., Kvasny, L., and Booth, K. 2012. "The Future of Gender and It Research: Embracing Intersectionality," ACM SIGMIS Computers and People Research Conference. Trauth, E. M., Quesenberry, J. L., and Huang, H. 2008. "A Multicultural Analysis of Factors Influencing Career Choice for Women in the Information Technology Workforce," Journal of Global Information Management (16:4), p. 1.

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