Women in Computing: How can gender and diversity enable digital innovation?

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Computing & Communications


To fully understand the extent of the research I wish to undertake, existing papers must be examined and a path must be chosen. Therefore I have outlined 3 main areas to investigate. Previous research shows the difference in approach to a programming task that groups of different genders took. The main difference was their approach to scalability due to the time constraints given to complete the programme. The female groups approached the task in a way which would have meant the game scaled, and the men approached the task in an inefficient way in order to complete it within the time given (Ashcroft, 2018). This difference in approach, which correlated with gender, could suggest that had a mixed gender group been run, that a compromise on both would have been reached and that diversity could have led to a more cohesive outcome. In 2018, women made up just 22% of the STEM workforce (WISE Campaign , 2019), with just 16% of the workforce of IT professionals being female. Furthermore, women in STEM apprenticeships are slowly increasing in numbers, but completion is continuing to drop (WISE Campaign, 2019). The proportion of gender in the workplace is significantly different from the audience they are building for. However, it is also important to remember that although gender is the focus of most studies when it comes to diversity in Computer Science, gender is not the only factor when considering diversity. Data shows that White students made up 80% of the total student population at Russell Group universities during 2009/10"(Race, 2019), which could be argued to be comparable to the UK population where 86% of the population was white (Office of Statistics, 2018). Comparing male and female participation in STEM, the data revealed that more women than men from the Black African ethnic minority group undertook STEM-related subjects in 2009/10 (Race, 2019). This suggests that the overlap of diversity problems regarding race and gender are not linked but both problematic. Race and gender are of course not the only defining characteristics of people, and it will also be important to consider other elements of a person, particularly those that people believe to have caused them difficulties, or reasons why have been treated differently. As was shown with the separate gender groups in my previous research, men and women approach tasks differently. This difference of opinion has previously been shown to create a stronger product. Research shows that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15% more likely to experience above-average profits (Forbes.com, 2019). In terms of Innovation, the process of generating meaningful change through ideation, the same could be said to be true, but to what extent? Diversity has been proven to increase a company's potential earnings (Forbes.com, 2019), as has Innovation (Amazon Web Services, 2019). Therefore, perhaps it can be assumed that diversity and innovation could work hand in hand to improve digital services and the working practices of teams. The aim of this research is to deduce to what extent gender and diversity influences digital innovation. In the first instance, this will be done by gathering groups of participants, each with varying levels of diversity, and asking them to complete a task. Their effectiveness in their task and the creativity they bring to it will then be compared to the levels of diversity in the groups.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513076/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2270021 Studentship EP/R513076/1 30/09/2019 30/03/2023 Alice Ashcroft