On Gender in CSCW Research

On Wednesday 12th January 2022, I attended the EUSSET Colloquium on CSCW Theories and Concepts and found myself intrigued by, and involved in, a discussion on Gender as a CSCW Concept, led by Ina Wagner. Having read the recommended reading before attending I was excited to hear Ina’s thoughts on Gendered work (Balka and Wagner, 2021) and enjoyed her introduction to the discussion. However, the conversation once it had begun quickly became about gender in CSCW research, as opposed to Gendered Work itself.

Julia Pierzina made a brilliant observation on the discussion, and spoke about how all work is gendered, because that is the nature of any work, and gender is a part of our identity. Other concerns with research focusing on gender itself, as opposed to incorporating it into existing research were raised, which I did object to. The idea that these two options are “either or” and cannot be done in tandem is problematic. Any research carried out should disclose how it is affected by the gender and other identities of its participants, researchers etc. To do so is often labelled as carrying out “feminist methodologies” which also assumes that any research carried out before the point of this work being done, will inherently hold some bias, whereas others argue this is simply good practice. Regardless of the motivation it is clear that this should be done in order to break down years of research assuming the male perspective is the default.

On raising this and somebody else using the classic book ‘Invisible Women’ as the reference to solve gender inequality in design, it was then suggested by another person in the discussion that we as a community cannot simply focus on gender alone but must take into account other identities, which may lead to discrimination. My counter argument to this was that, again, these things should be done in tandem. There should be research which focuses on just gender, on just race, on just background, and there should also be research which focuses on the intersection of all these characteristics, but how when discussing intersectionality, it is important to recognise that this is a product of Black Feminist Theory (De Hertogh et al., 2019), and to not acknowledge this is to again remove credit from those who are marginalised. This was quickly supported by David Randall who had been patiently waiting with his hand raised.

Overall, the discussion was positive, with many people sharing resources and recommended reading in the chat whilst these discussions were taking place, and although the conversation diverged from Ina’s initial introduction, it was brilliant to see discussions surrounding diversity being spoken about with such importance.

The colloquium ended with me being volunteered to write this blog post and compile a source of recommended reading, some of which has come from myself, others from those present in the discussion. But regardless of where your reading begins or what it is, I encourage everyone reading this to share these topics with others in the community – not everyone will have wanted to read a blog post with the word “gender” in the title at all.

Recommended reading: 

  • Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
  • Fair Play by Eve Rodsky
  • The Gendered Brain by Gina Ripon

Other resources raised by the group:

References

Ashcroft, A., 2021. Gender and Discussion in Innovation Design. In Proceedings of 19th European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. European Society for Socially Embedded Technologies (EUSSET).

Ashcroft, A., 2020, December. Gender Differences in Innovation Design: A Thematic Conversation Analysis. In 32nd Australian Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 270-280).

Balka, Ellen, and Ina Wagner (2021). A historical view of studies of women’s work. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 251-305.

Alice Ashcroft

Alice Ashcroft is a PhD student and Researcher in Diversity and Inclusion in Computing Education at Lancaster University, doing research on Gender and Diversity in Design.

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