RS2: Iran

ICT AND GENDER DIGITAL DIVIDE IN IRAN

Author Hossein Dehghan explains the structural inequality of gender in Iran through the access of education and specifically the lack of women involvement in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), thus decreasing opportunities for women and increasing the gender and digital divide. Dehghan notes that with the long-standing gender inequality in Iranian society, “expecting Information and Communication Technologies [to] remove or even reduce its effect is not reasonable” (1). Dehghan elaborates by stating the inherent relation between education and socialization, and gender inequality. Ann Okley describes that “parents treat their daughters and sons differently so that gender roles emerged first through the socialization process at home” (1). Dehghan cites Iranian proverbs and rhymes such as “‘Father provides the bread’” (2), and states that the existence of such stereotypes “support[s] various kinds of gender inequality, especially in the ICT area” (2). Dehghan continues by stating that although there has been significant growth of female admission after the Cultural Revolution of 1983, women still lack presence in majors related to ICT. Even fewer women continue their education onwards to the Ph.D. or master’s level. This absence of women in higher education, Dehghan says, leads to women who are “concentrated in digital jobs that are considered to be less skilled than those carried out by men, which in turn leads to a gender gap in both pay and training” (5). The traditional view of women in Iran is that of houseworkers and supporters of the men. Dehghan notes that “domestic work does not improve women’s conditions financially nor their social status” (4). The lack of access that women have to ICT and educational facilities to encourage women to pursue these fields is coupled with the absence of proper infrastructure (such as “babysitting facilities”), which serves to further the digital divide in Iran. Dehghan ultimately suggests that since men are the ones designing and implementing software and hardware, “women’s needs are almost ignored” and that “gender segregation will increase if not enough ICT improvement is evident among women” (5). This problem, according to Dehghan, lies intrinsically within the educational system, which has an “important role in both solving and supporting gender digital divide” (1).

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