WHY LATINAS DO IT: A QUALITATIVE EXPLORATION OF THE CAREER CHOICE FOR WOMEN IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Melanie Z. Plasencia, Professor Ulla Berg, Department of Latino, Hispanic & Caribbean Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 07087.

Over the next eight years, researchers predict a large growth in Information Technology (IT) specialist openings. It is expected that most of these jobs will remain unoccupied. Many scholars have discussed ways in which to fill in this gap by incorporating and actively recruiting women of color into technological fields. However, research trying to understand the barriers that hinder women from pursuing technological careers oftentimes clumps all women of color into one category, ignoring potential racial and ethnic differences in order to establish general strategies that do not take these differing experiences into account. In particular, Hispanic women have been underrepresented in studies regarding women of color and information technology. Hispanic women are considered to be the lowest participants involved in computer science careers. This study seeks to understand the factors that contribute to Latinas immersing themselves in information technology careers, such as computer and technological access, educational background, mentors in technology, family and class. Through semi-structured interviews with eight Latinas in specialized information technology jobs, this study identifies not only the factors that have allowed them to become successful, but also the obstacles they have encountered. The interviews were investigated using hermeneutic analysis and naturalistic inquiry in order to evaluate consistent themes in all of the women’s experiences. Consistent themes and factors were then inputted into qualitative analysis software. One main finding is that Latinas in technology were influenced by their families throughout their childhood and adulthood to pursue a technological career. These women also shared similar personality traits that helped them to pursue such a challenging career such as being stubborn, growing up in un-gendered spaces, and developing an interest in math, physics and chemistry. I argue that Latinas and technology should be further studied in order to promote increasing numbers of minorities in IT, especially that of the lowest participating minority.


Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Melanie Plasencia

Institution: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick

Type: Poster

Subject: Interdisciplinary Studies

Year: 2011