Susanna Bairoh ja Sanna Putila ulkona.

Study: Men experience the dismantling of privileges as discrimination

News article

Discrimination faced by women remains a significant problem in the field of technology, but a recent study also highlights discrimination experienced by men. The discrimination men experience in tech is often related to measures that promote equality.

Men and women face gender-based discrimination in the technology sector in very different ways. According to a recent study, women bring up matters such as challenges in career progression, doubting of expertise, belittling, inappropriate comments and even sexual harassment.

Men talk about the favouring of women and quota women, or incompetent women. According to men, women are especially sought to fill managerial positions.

– In public discourse equality has already been achieved and discrimination is no more, but this is not the case.

The data for the study comes from the discrimination-related questions of two surveys conducted by TEK: the extensive membership survey of 2015 and a sample study conducted in 2020.

According to the Labour market survey of 2015, women of all ages face more sex-based discrimination than men: the shares of yes answers varied between 26 and 32 % for women whereas the same shares for men were 1–4 %.

In the sample study of 2020, 14 % of all respondents said that they had experienced discrimination. That is 21 % of female and 10 % of male respondents.

When asked, the authors of the new study, TEK’s Research Manager Susanna Bairoh and former TEK researcher Sanna Putila, say that the most surprising thing about the results was how stubborn a phenomenon discrimination is.

– Somehow you’d hope that things would improve. This shouldn't be a thing anymore, says Susanna Bairoh.

Putila is also puzzled by the mismatch between words and reality.

– In public discourse equality has already been achieved and discrimination is no more, but this is not the case.

Susanna Bairoh and Sanna Putila’s peer-reviewed academic study “Competent women are not promoted” or “women are favoured”?  Contradicting experiences of gender-based discrimination at the workplaces of highly educated technology professionals was published in December in the magazine Työelämän tutkimus (Work Life Research) published by the Finnish Association of Work Life Research.

– The discrimination faced by men has hardly been studied at all in the tech sector. This is why we picked up the topic, says Susanna Bairoh.

Equal treatment may look like favouritism

According to the study, the discrimination experienced by men is often linked to measures that strive to challenge masculine culture. These measures include publicly stated equality goals, such as the announcement by the software and services company TietoEVRY that the company is striving to achieve a global 50/50 gender balance among its staff by the year 2030.

In a culture that questions the competence of women, this kind of equal treatment may appear as unwarranted favouritism of women. According to the study the challenge is that striving for equality requires changes from men. “Even though gender equality is not a zero-sum game, it is not a win-win situation either: men do not necessarily lose out if women gain an advantage, but on the other hand the advantage of women does not automatically benefit men, at least not on the short term.”

The study states that some men do not believe women face gender-based discrimination at all. Furthermore, some men experience the dismantling of the primacy of masculinity as discrimination because they do not recognise or acknowledge the privileged position their gender brings them.

How can we get all men on board to make the changes?

– It is difficult to change a person’s mind if they hold a totally opposite opinion, but you can achieve a lot with like-minded people. These kinds of men include those who are concerned about what is best for their spouses, friends and daughters. When a shared understanding of the need for change gradually grows, even the staunchest opponents will join in, even if they are not happy about it, says Sanna Putila.