MAY 15

Distinguished Seminar Series: "Why so Few? The Underrepresentation of Women in Technology and Software Development"

Sandy Payette, founding CEO of DuraSpace, discusses the alarming gender disparity in computing as a cultural issue in the areas of technology and software development.

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Distinguished Seminar Series

Payette Photo 2

While women were central to the history of computer programming, there are now very low percentages of women in key technical positions and leadership roles across multiple sectors. Computer science is the only STEM discipline (i.e., science, technology, engineering, math) to experience a multi-decade downward trend in the percentage of women receiving degrees and entering technical computing jobs in the workplace.

The underrepresentation of women in computing exists in Silicon Valley as well as cultural and educational institutions including universities, libraries, and not-for-profits. From a social perspective, the open source disparity is paradoxical given the pro-social ethos of open source software, one that promotes openness, collaboration, sharing, and transparency.

Grounded in theories of gender and power, discourse and practice, Payette will reflect on the key question that led her to pursue a PhD after having been a female leader in technology since the 1980s—among her many accomplishments, she was the system architect and lead developer of Fedora and the founding CEO of DuraSpace. Her initial question of “where are the women and why so few” led her to research that revealed discourses and dilemmas that influenced the underrepresentation of women in computing. Payette will also discuss the prospects for change and her views on the role of not-for-profit organizations and change agents in the attempt to move toward gender parity in the design and development of the socio-technical systems we build.

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About Sandy Payette

For over 25 years, Sandy Payette has operated at the intersections of theory and practice through multiple roles in industry, academia, and not-for-profits. She has held multiple leadership roles in areas of technical and scholarly research, software development, and development of knowledge infrastructures with open source communities, not-for-profits, and research libraries.

In 1994 at the dawn of the Word Wide Web, Sandy was a senior software engineer at Cornell University during the era of the emerging digital library. She was a member of the Cornell Computer Science department’s Digital Library Research Group where she was a researcher, system architect and lead developer for the software known as the Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture. She led the evolution of her research into a successful open source project (the Fedora Project) and its sustaining organization (Fedora Commons). Building collaborations with other open source initiatives, she became the founding CEO of DuraSpace, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. As the CEO of DuraSpace (, Sandy led the organization through its startup years and expanded the portfolio of its open technologies that fit within digital knowledge infrastructure, including Fedora, DSpace, DuraCloud, VIVO, and adjacent services.

It was during her time as CEO of DuraSpace that she developed an academic interest on key questions about the social and cultural impact of technology, especially the design and development of software technologies. From 2011-2016 Sandy pursued a PhD at Cornell University focused in disciplines of Communication and Science and Technology Studies (STS) and completed her degree in 2018. While working on her degree, she served as a research investigator at University of Michigan (2014-2015), and as a leader in practice at Cornell University Library in the roles of Director of Information Technology for Research and Scholarship (2015-2019) and interim Associate University Librarian (2018-2019).

About the Distinguished Seminar Series

OCLC Research established the Distinguished Seminar Series in 1978 to encourage the sharing of thought leadership around topics that effect the ever-evolving world of librarianship and information sharing. We invite distinguished professionals to our headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, to give presentations on topics of current interest. Speakers may discuss recently completed or early-stage research that they have undertaken or report other types of professional activity. Some topics align closely with our current research directions, while others represent areas of interest to the library and information science community that are not formally being studied by our researchers.

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15 May 2019


11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Eastern Daylight Time, North America [UTC -4]


Dublin, Ohio


OCLC Kilgour Auditorium or virtually