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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Research Spotlight: Women in eLearning: Continuing the Conversation | Learning Solutions Magazine

Research Spotlight: Women in eLearning: Continuing the Conversation 

by Cecelia Munzenmaier, Sharon Vipond, and Julie Dirksen

In The eLearning Guild’s newest white paper, eLearning author, educator, and business writing coach Cecelia Munzenmaier gathers the most recent research on women in eLearning and provides a framework for launching additional Guild-sponsored conversations on this topic during 2017. Guild research director Sharon Vipond provides a snapshot of 2017 salary survey data that helps us better understand what we know about women in the field. And Julie Dirksen, award-winning author and instructional strategist, contributes an updated assessment of “where we are now” in terms of women within the eLearning field.

Engaging with thought leaders In addition, eight eLearning thought leaders also provide their practical, positive, and forward-looking insights on the challenges and opportunities faced by women in eLearning. Outreach and connection with thought leaders was one of the goals of this research effort. It was not only important to hear from the best and brightest thinkers in our field, but also from those who have written on the subject of women in eLearning and have contributed substantial insights to this ongoing discussion.

Exploring a spectrum of issues 
The topics range from current research to practical suggestions. Here is what you will learn from this valuable white paper:
  • What current research tells us about gender bias in the larger workforce, as well as within the eLearning field
  • Why gender bias is a specific concern for learning leaders and practitioners
  • What we can do, as both individuals and organizations, to help eliminate gender bias in eLearning
  • What snapshot data from the 2017 salary survey reveals about women in The eLearning Guild’s global community, and what gender data comparisons can be made on the basis of education level, years of industry experience, job focus, job level, and tenure in current position
Additionally, industry thought leaders provided insights and advice in response to the following questions: As we begin 2017, what do you view as the most critical issues impacting gender in the eLearning field? What do you see as the single best way that others in the field can encourage and support female eLearning practitioners? What three pieces of practical advice would you give to women in eLearning? 

Note: Detailed citations and links for all source materials are provided in the white paper. 

What makes gender bias a concern for eLearning practitioners? 
The concern about companies’ inability to retain women has particular application to the eLearning industry. Women in technical professions are more likely to feel that they are isolated and don’t fit in, according to a Stanford University report, Climbing the Technical Ladder. Though most women in technology report loving their jobs, this sense of isolation is one reason women leave careers in IT, engineering, and scientific research at much higher levels than men. Another source of attrition is midcareer women’s sense that they have fewer opportunities to advance than their male colleagues. This loss of talent will make it difficult for technology-oriented companies to maintain their current rates of growth and remain competitive, according to Catherine Ashcraft and Sarah Blithe. 

In addition, eLearning professionals are in a unique position to either reinforce or debunk gender stereotypes. “Learning professionals are often viewed as the ‘teachers’ of the organization,” notes Koreen Pagano

We can teach without knowing it through the gender roles we portray in the scenarios we write, says Judy Katz. The images we choose can have tremendous power to model reality, writes Trina Rimmer in an article describing the difficulty of finding authentic images for a training module on human trafficking. “It’s up to us to use our design powers for the greater good—to shine light on all aspects of the human experience, particularly the darkest corners where learning can lead to real, positive change.” 

As Katz and Rimmer both suggest, relatively small changes can have a disproportionately large effect on the status quo. What can eLearning practitioners do to promote gender equity within our industry? 

Source: Learning Solutions Magazine

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