Women’s ICT Sector Employment in Developing Countries: Dualism of Rhetoric vs. Reality in the Case of Sri Lanka

Sharon Morgan


This paper reports on the institutional tensions faced by women in Sri Lanka pursuing a career as ICT professionals, with particular focus on the role of the ICT sector and its organisations. In considering the findings, a constant thread is conflicting tension – a rhetoric based on equality, diversity, professionalism and opportunity on one hand, the constraints of a traditional patriarchal social context on the other. This conflict can be characterised as a form of institutional dualism. The paper highlights the institutional drivers and forces affecting women's agency as ICT professionals through this dualistic lens, and argues for gender-focussed interventions from the ICT sector.

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. What are the typical gender skews seen in the ICT professions, and why are they seen to arise?  [Part B].
  2. What are the key gender dimensions of the Sri Lankan ICT sector?  [Part C].
  3. What are the gendered practices at work in the Sri Lankan ICT sector?  [Part D].
  4. What are the institutional dualisms that shape the employment of women in the Sri Lankan ICT sector?  [Part E].
  5. What is the way forward for ICT sector organisations?  [Part F].

Development questions

  1. Looked at overall, do you think the ICT sector presents more of a threat or more of an opportunity for women in developing countries?
  2. Imagine you are the CEO of an ICT company in Sri Lanka.  What steps would you take to ensure greater participation of women in your workforce?
  3. Imagine you are a senior ICT policy-maker in Sri Lanka.  What steps would you take to ensure greater participation of women in the ICT sector?
  4. Are there other examples you can identify of institutional dualism in the ICT sector – a tension between the traditional and the new, which create dualistic behaviours and impacts of inequality?