Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Karen Lee Ashcraft
A central defining feature of today's labor market is that it is segregated by social identities. Research seeking to understand both why this is and what the consequences of these labor arrangements are has defined this phenomenon as occupational segregation. Because occupational segregation is viewed by many as an important social problem, practitioners are actively working towards curbing segregation patterns. Such is the very mission of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), which seeks to increase the representation of women in "computing and I.T." work. This dissertation explores the ways through which NCWIT attempts to desegregate the field of "computing and I.T.". Through a two year multi-sited ethnography in which I shadowed "Sit With Me," an occupational rebranding campaign that has been at the center of NCWIT's desegregation efforts, I explore two questions: (1) how does the "Sit With Me" campaign attempt to increase the representation of women in "computing and I.T." and what discursive struggles are involved in these efforts?, and (2) what are the consequences of the discourse surrounding the "Sit With Me" campaign for relations of difference and the campaign's goal of occupational desegregation? Through my analysis, I expose a paradox of inclusivity that is a central organizing element of the "Sit With Me" campaign. The paradox stems from the campaign's attempt to challenge exclusionary occupational discourses surrounding gender, but without considering how these discourses are intertwined with and cannot effectively be challenged without attending to other forms of difference. To show how this paradox of inclusivity could be averted, I develop an alternative approach to occupational (de)segregation that is rooted in queer theory. This queer approach entails avoiding recourse to broad categories of identity, seeking to dissociate work from difference in all of its forms, and bringing actual work practices (instead of identity categories) to the forefront of occupational rebranding campaigns. In sum, the main contributions of this study are to introduce queer theory to occupational (de)segregation research and to show how a queer approach to occupational (de)segregation enables scholars and practitioners to escape the paradox of inclusivity that they currently face.
McDonald, James, "Rethinking Difference in “Computing and I.T.” Work: Queering Occupational (De)Segregation Research and Practice" (2013). Communication Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 50.