"Outcast among outcasts": identity, gender, and leadership in a Mac users group

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Authors: Wendy K.Z. Anderson and Patrice M. Buzzanell
Date: Spring 2007
From: Women and Language(Vol. 30, Issue 1)
Publisher: George Mason University
Document Type: Report
Length: 11,208 words

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Abstract: Studies about women and technology continue to lament the lack of women involved in the design process, a key area for leadership development in technologically based organizations (Liker, Hadda, & Karlin, 1999; Lorber, 1993; Stein, 2006; Turkle, 1997; Wajcman, 2000). In cases where marginal technologies and members (e.g., Macintosh and females) are present, how participating members discursively and materially construct leadership identities among a myriad of other possibilities (e.g., expert technology user or programmer, student, technological consultant) deserves attention. We used a grounded theory approach to analyze interviews, field observations, and online archival data. Findings indicate that members' constructed competing and often contradictory Macintosh and gendered identities and identifications as well as tension-filled micropractices that both replicate and disrupt the gendered order.


Donna Haraway (2000) discussed how individuals' productions of lived experiences through language shape collective social realities. Social realities include not only the ways in which technologies affect and are affected by the fabric of social culture, but also the ways in which specific groups, such as specialized users and creators of technologies, exist. Language naturalizes identities and social culture. Although Haraway directed attention to women's work and use of language in technological contexts, her call also echoed women's struggles to form and enact productive identities in multiple and intersecting communication contexts (Acker, 1990; Borghi & Sborgi, 2000; Lorber, 1993; Perry & Greber, 1990; Stein, 2002; Wajcman, 2000).

One such site of struggle is women's leadership, particularly women's involvement in, direction of, and meaning making in technology-based organizations (for leadership overviews, see Fairhurst & Sarr, 1996; Hickman, 1998). To date, research has focused on the tensions, difficulties, and opportunities that women have experienced while developing credibility and enacting leadership in the workplace, elected or appointed positions, and professional groups and organizations (e.g., Acker, 1990; Aldoory & Toth, 2004; Bormann, Pratt, & Putnam, 1978; Bunyi & Andrews, 1985; Jamieson, 1995; Johnson, 1994; Jorgenson, 2002; Sullivan & Turner, 1996; Wood & Conrad, 1983), but relatively little research has examined these processes in less formally structured and in technology-focused contexts. Even less scholarship has studied women who are in the process of learning how to craft and be called upon to play different identities out of myriad leadership and membership possibilities (Kondo, 1990). As a major aspect of and process in leadership, gender must be studied concerning women's roles in technological contexts. For it may be in less established contexts that some younger or less experienced women not only test and learn how to negotiate their leadership identities, but also enlarge or constrict their repertoire of identity possibilities in concert with other organizational members.

As such, we examine how some young women come to understand and navigate choices and contradictions that may surface in their leadership identities in a context that is traditionally instrumental (in role and organizational culture), alternative (in its structural location, history, and "progressive" interests), and inclusionary (in its recruitment, retention, and promotion of local members as well as historical corporate membership and appointment of leaders). (1) In...

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Source Citation
Anderson, Wendy K.Z., and Patrice M. Buzzanell. "'Outcast among outcasts': identity, gender, and leadership in a Mac users group." Women and Language, vol. 30, no. 1, 2007, p. 32+. Accessed 5 May 2021.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A167507768