Women in technology: How personal and institutional ecology affects success
Charlene Elizabeth Ashton, University of San Francisco, United States
University of San Francisco . Awarded
Despite over 30 years of affirmative action, in the United States, women still constitute less than one quarter of the technological workforce. Byrne's theory of institutional ecology provides a rationale for this discrepancy and provides part of the theoretical framework for this study. Byrne's findings suggest that institutional ecology plays an important part in the retention and success of women in technology. She concluded that institutions could help women succeed by providing them with a safe and supportive environment that promotes the sharing of ideas. In addition, the theory of personal ecology suggests that women who come to the institution, even with varied backgrounds, have some characteristics in common which allow them to overcome the obstacles they encounter within the institution and successfully complete their degree.
This study assessed the theories of institutional ecology and personal ecology by examining the perceptions of women in technology who graduated from traditional and non-traditional institutions. It focused on eight women who successfully completed their technology-related degrees in two different types of institutions. The study looked at three different phenomena: the commonalties of women in technology, the commonalties of technology programs between institutions, and the unique characteristics of the two different types of institutions. Participatory research methods were used to engage the participants in a dialogue that focused on their college experiences and how they perceived these experiences impacting their lives.
The results of these interviews indicate that although the institutional ecology of the non-traditional university is more aligned with Byrne's (1993) concept of a model institution, it is the personal ecology of the women that ultimately determines their success. The study suggests that institutions of higher education, both traditional and non-traditional, need to offer gender-neutral curricula, support services, and financial aid that ensure success rather than frustration. This paper discovered that education is a partnership between the individual and the institution and, as such, it is incumbent upon both parties to work together and create an environment that promotes the growth of all the members of our society.
Ashton, C.E. Women in technology: How personal and institutional ecology affects success. Ph.D. thesis, University of San Francisco.
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