International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, Vol 3, No 1 (2011)

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She’s Geeky: The Performance of Identity among Women Working in IT

Rhiannon Bury


This paper offers a critical examination of the ways in which female IT professionals take up a geek identity. Since the postwar period, computing has been associated with masculinity. During the ‘dotcom’ boom of the late 1990s, the label of ‘geek’ shed some of its negative connotations, and by extension became more amenable to being taken up by women who are passionate about technology. In 2007, I attended the first She’s Geeky ‘unconference’ in the heart of the Silicon Valley for the purpose of recruiting participants for a small qualitative case study. Six female IT professionals in ‘mixed-skill’ or ‘hybrid’ positions completed the study. Drawing on poststructuralist gender theory, I argue that the female geek needs to be understood an hybridized alternative feminine identity. My analysis of the data demonstrates that identifying as a female geek is connected to childhood tomboyism and involves a complex negotiation of normative masculine and feminine identities, a process that both challenges and reinforces gender norms.

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