Women's experiences of online networking for career progression in science, engineering and technology

Donelan, Helen; Herman, Clem; Kear, Karen; Kirkup, Gill and Whitelegg, Liz (2007). Women's experiences of online networking for career progression in science, engineering and technology. In: 3rd Christina Conference on Women's Studies, 8-10 Mar 2007, Helsinki, Finland.

URL: http://www.helsinki.fi/kristiina-instituutti/confe...


There is increasing interest in how networking can support women's career progression,particularly in occupations which are male dominated such as science, engineering and technology. The challenges facing women in these professions have been well documented and include: integrating home and work life; confidence and isolation problems; the lack of role models; difficulties in returning to work after career breaks due to fast moving technical advancements; and exclusion from traditional male-orientated networking environments. Some of these issues are being addressed through the formation of women's corporate, public or professional networks. Research has shown the benefits of these and of the social aspects of networking when the primary aim is to receive or provide support. However those with family commitments may find participation in social networking events, often conducted out-of-hours, impractical. One solution may be to take advantage of the growing online social networking culture which is increasingly being used as a tool for career progression. The implications are that online social networking, where communities may be formed regardless of geography and time limitations, and social interactions play a central role, may provide an effective and complementary networking solution for women in the strive for career advancement.

This paper explores the exploitation of online networks by women in order to accommodate more fluid boundaries, diversify their network of contacts and ultimately support career progression in male- dominated professions. We present the different types of online networking environments and investigate how these are beginning to re-shape the professional networks of women and are addressing some of the challenges these women face. We look at issues associated with the strength, reliability and usefulness of relationships formed due to both the online element and the gender-balance of the networks used.

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