Critical empirical research in IS: An example of gender and the IT workforce

Eileen M. Trauth, Debra Howcroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Purpose - This article aims to add to the growing number of critical empirical studies and to reflect on the process of conducting this type of research, thereby addressing the lack of exemplars for those engaged with critical empirical information systems research. Design/methodology/approach - Applies the critical lens to a multi-year examination of variation in the career narratives of women in the American IT labor force. While an interpretive epistemology was initially chosen for this research project, over time, analysis of interview data took on an increasingly critical orientation. This, in turn, influenced subsequent fieldwork to become critical in nature. Findings - One theoretical contribution is highlighting the role of power dynamics in understanding what sits beneath the surface of observations about these women's experiences in the IT workforce. The second theoretical contribution is helping to shift the focus away from predominantly essentialist theories that dichotomize men and women and toward a recognition of the diversity among women in the IT field. Research limitations/implications - Future research should include additional critical empirical studies of women in the IT field in other countries. Practical implications - This research project can serve as a useful example for other critical IS researchers about to embark on empirical fieldwork. Originality/value - This paper provides a concrete illustration of the way in which empirical research is altered as the epistemological lens shifts from interpretivist to critical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-292
Number of pages21
JournalInformation Technology and People
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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