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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Sociology

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Enobong Hannah Branch

Second Advisor

Donald Tomaskovic-Devey

Third Advisor

Joya Misra

Fourth Advisor

Banumathi Subramaniam

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Race and Ethnicity | Work, Economy and Organizations

Abstract

Despite public policy initiatives and private sector investment to recruit more women, women’s participation in high-tech work has decreased since 1990. I use interviews with tech workers and nationally representative quantitative workforce data from the American Community Survey to examine the consequences of race, gender, and immigration for tech workers’ experiences and wages. While previous research shows a decrease in the proportion of women in tech work, these conclusions are somewhat misleading as they do not consider the intersections of race and migration with gender. I find only modest change in the absolute numbers of women. Rather, as the field grew, male migrant workers have primarily filled the new positions. Using only a gendered lens obscures the complicated racial and global dynamics of the tech workforce. I empirically examine three aspects of tech worker’s experience. First, I look at differences in wages by gender, race, and immigration status using decomposition techniques. I find that, despite the investment in recruiting women, there is a considerable wage gap that reflects the intersecting race, gender, and immigration inequalities. Second, I explore the kinds of work that tech workers do, and find that by mid-career many white women had moved into management position that emphasize interpersonal skills over technical skills. I call these positions “translational” as they are expected to translate technical information to management and business directives to technical teams. Finally, I examine how tech workers imagine the ideal engineer works. I find that many workers envision someone who is always at their computer working very long hours and constantly engaged in technical pursuits, but the workers I interviewed valued work/life balance. Managers had more control over their schedules but they also worked nights and weekends. Software developers and others in strictly technical positions worked closer to an 8-hour day. Meanwhile, technical work such as software development is increasingly done by migrant contract workers who work with legal restrictions that push them to work like the ideal engineer described in the interviews.

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