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Gender and Learning Technology
December 22, 2009 - 8:15pm

All my bosses have been women. I should say, all my bosses in the world of learning technology. And this is not totally true, as up until recently my last boss was a guy. But by and large, through two institutions of higher education and one foray into the for-profit dot-com world of educational technology. my bosses have been women. I never really gave this any thought - as the gender of my bosses never seemed to be a salient variable in their leadership styles, abilities and skills. It wasn't until I was sitting around chatting with some colleagues this week when we discovered that all of their bosses in learning technology have always been women as well.

Is this a trend? Do we have any way of knowing the gender breakdown of the leadership in learning technology? Are women more represented in leadership roles in learning technology then in other high profile roles in academia and the private sector? Will this trend accelerate? (The lack of data about the people in our profession really drives me nuts!) Is my experience idiosyncratic, or representative of a larger story?

Why would learning technology leadership skew toward higher proportions of women?

I have two hypotheses - I'd like to hear yours:

Hypothesis 1 - Flexible Career Paths: Leadership in learning technology does not need to follow a set career path. My bosses have had varied careers before coming to their leadership positions, ranging from teaching school, to working in the corporate sector, to moving up the academic library ranks. A background in network management, coding, or system administration is not a prerequisite for learning technology leadership roles. Rather, career paths usually combine some management training and experience with work in sectors related to both learning and technology. Perhaps the flexibility of the career path for learning technology leadership allows for more circuitous routes, ones that can flex to handle family demands and geographic jumps. The hypothesis is that learning technology leadership, as compared to other leadership roles in academia or the private sector, offers greater flexibility in building careers and is more flexible about the qualifications for ultimately assuming a leadership post.

Hypothesis 2- Social Intelligence: Communication and collaboration are the key skills for a successful career in learning technology. Leadership in learning technology is about being able to be bilingual across the academic and technical languages. If you are running things in a learning technology organization you are not writing code, racking servers, or building courses - rather you are getting the resources and support necessary to the people who do this work. You need to be able to communicate up to the highest levels of the organization, communicate across to your peers, and down to your direct reports. You need to be able to set out a vision for your organization, get your colleagues and team to buy in to that vision, and then get your people the resources and support they need to reach these shared goals. Are women better at these tasks then men? What do you think?

Can anyone share any demographic data as it pertains to our profession?

Any thoughts on the role of gender in the field of learning technology?

Can the women working in leadership roles in learning technology add anything to this discussion?


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