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Compromising gender identities: Stay strategies of women in gender-atypical information technology firms in Sri Lanka

Kanchana Wijayawardena (Department of Human Resource Management, Faculty of Management and Finance, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka)
Nilupama Wijewardena (Department of Management, Monash University, Clayton, Australia)
Ramanie Samaratunge (Department of Management, Monash University, Clayton, Australia)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 5 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Given the limited research on women in information technology (IT) sectors in emerging economies and the importance of understanding their experiences working in highly gendered IT firms, the purpose of this paper is to examine the specific gendered strategies used by women engineers to stay in gender-atypical IT firms in Sri Lanka using job embeddedness as a theoretical lens.

Design/methodology/approach

Data collection was done through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions on a sample of 14 women engineers employed in five leading IT firms in Sri Lanka.

Findings

Respondents perceived the work role expectations in the Sri Lankan IT industry as masculine. Respondents compromised their own gender identities to engage in four distinct strategies to link and fit with the prevailing work role expectations. “Using a hybrid style” and “being passive and neutral” were respondents’ link strategies, while “adopting masculine traits” and “demonstrating self-confidence” related to their fit strategies.

Research limitations/implications

Men and women who aspire to enter the IT sector need to be pre-prepared and educated about the characteristics of IT cultures and prevailing gender norms along with the subject knowledge. Managers of IT firms need to create positive work environments for their women employees that aid them to fit and link with their workplaces.

Originality/value

The study provides a deeper understanding of how women manage gender-related issues within gender-atypical IT firms in Sri Lanka and stay in their employment.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge that this paper was made possible through the support and guidance provided by the “Australia Awards Fellowship Program for Sri Lanka – 2014,” which was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia, and co-hosted by Monash University, Australia and the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration. The authors also acknowledge the comments and advice given by Professor Rowena Barrett (Queensland University of Technology) on earlier versions of this paper.

Citation

Wijayawardena, K., Wijewardena, N. and Samaratunge, R. (2017), "Compromising gender identities: Stay strategies of women in gender-atypical information technology firms in Sri Lanka", Information Technology & People, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 246-264. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-01-2016-0012

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited