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What's the problem? The need for culture change in science and engineering Practicing Gender Equality in Science (Prages) Workshop Manchester Business.

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Presentation on theme: "What's the problem? The need for culture change in science and engineering Practicing Gender Equality in Science (Prages) Workshop Manchester Business."— Presentation transcript:

1 What's the problem? The need for culture change in science and engineering Practicing Gender Equality in Science (Prages) Workshop Manchester Business School, 9 November 2009 Wendy Faulkner ISSTI, University of Edinburgh

2 Women/Gender in SET Three aspects of the problem –Recruitment –Retention –Career progression Structural/institutional factors well rehearsed –Education and socialisation –Lack of family friendly work practices Cultural factors –Less visible and less well understood –Taken-for-granted part of everyday life in SET

3 My work on engineering ESRC project sought to reveal any subtle gender dynamics operating in engineering workplaces –interviews and observation in 3 sectors –gender understood as multiple, fluid, performed, etc. women! Q: What if any aspects of engineering identities, cultures and practices are gendered or gendering? OR Q: How is engineering more supportive of and comfortable to (more) men than women? Edinburgh part of EU Prometea project on good practice wrt women in engineering

4 Belonging: a key theme McIlwee & Robinson (1992) on womens poor career progression in engineering: It is womens membership, not their competence, that is at question. They do not conform, or more accurately, do not appear to conform, to the culture of the workplace. –Engineering culture celebrates hands-on competence and aggressive self-promotion Tonso (2007) on engineering education and students: Something about engineering seems to make it difficult for women to be thought of as full-fledged members –Engineering identities are largely mens identities

5 1. In/visibility issues Gender in/authenticity: Non/congruence of engineering and gender identities –Man engineer as the norm is also normative –Engineering is a more gender authentic choice for men than women The in/visibility paradox: Women engineers are highly visible as women but invisible as engineers –Women engineers have to do more identity work wrt both their engineering and gender identities –Men belong more readily on both fronts: as real engineers and as real men

6 Invisibility as engineers Women have to work harder to prove their engineering credentials –esp to new associates, throughout careers Womens membership as real engineers is more fragile than mens (in subtle ways) –engineers often foreground and celebrate a nuts and bolts identity comfortable for many men –belonging is both felt and perceived (eg, managers) Low confidence/self-esteem: a recurring theme –in education and in their careers –very undermining

7 Visibility as women (Hetero)sexually visible –So prone to sexual harassment or predation in a way few men experience Visible as parents –Fathers are not, yet proportionately fewer women engineers are parents! Paradox: women have to blend in to masculine workplace cultures but not lose their femininity –They are often caught between playing down or playing up conventional femininity

8 2. Workplace cultures Everyday signals of bonding Eg, mate, lad, the handshake are fraternal, absent when men interact with women engineers Non-work conversation and humour Gender conventional topics - football and families: Its all men in blue shirts talking about football all day. Tedious! Gender norms - heteronormative and family-centred - can marginalise or silence many women and men Social circles Some mens networks are powerful - in getting the job done, gaining promotion and as models of masculinity

9 Workplace interactions do gender as well as doing the job Some workplaces are relatively inclusive –Ethic of respecting and valuing all –Accommodate diverse masculinities and femininities … When proportion of women bigger, and diversity efforts in place Other workplaces tend to be more exclusive –Narrow range of available genders; others marginalised … When women are in a very small minority and the majority group is very homogenous culturally NB The same men tend to be more inclusive with close women colleagues than with new or unfamiliar associates

10 Conclusions Cumulative dripping tap of in/visibility issues and workplace cultures can have a huge impact: –on womens sense of worth and belonging –on their ability to do the job (eg, relationship building) –on their success in seeking promotion Many of these dynamics are so subtle and taken-for- granted that even well meaning practitioners are simply unaware of them and, hence, of their part of perpetuating inequality

11 Underlying problems 1.Normative effect of relative numbers –Norms shape what we expect –Majority/minority dynamics in the workplace 2.Co-construction of gender and engineering, esp technical-social dualism –Engineering is heterogeneous (social and technical) –Men as social too, women as technical too! -> Need to challenge stereotypes of both gender and engineering - if we are to attract and keep women engineers

12 The way forward? 1.Tackle the numbers: necessary but not sufficient 2.Culture change: sustained efforts to –Normalise the woman engineer –Nurture a culture where everybody is belongs and can contributes their full potential –Raise awareness of in/visibility issues and of in/exclusive dynamics in the workplace –Promote and celebrate diversity in/of engineering

13 Barriers to good practice A.Implementation of policies effective –Publicity and promotion –Backing of managers for needed changes –Monitoring and evaluation B.Attitudes and awareness –Resistance to change –Persistence of gender stereotypes and norms –Opposition to preferential treatment C.Inadequate organisational commitment –Package of measures integrated into core business –Resources, including learning –Reaching all levels of the organisation

14 Need to win hearts and minds … rather than just achieve compliance … based on the understanding that it is organisations not women who have the problems (Liff and Cameron, 1997) 1.Demonstrate the existence of inequality … with hard evidence on retention and progression 2.Make the case for intervention … the business case for diversity and social justice 3.Increase awareness of how inequality happens … so win support for specific measures 4.Help people think about how they individually might contribute to enhancing or inhibiting equality & diversity

15 Sources Wendy Faulkner (2007) Nuts and bolts and people: Gender-troubled engineering identities Social Studies of Science, 37(3): Wendy Faulkner (2009) Doing gender in engineering workplace cultures: Part I – Observations from the field, Engineering Studies 1(1): 3-18 Wendy Faulkner (2009) Doing gender in engineering workplace cultures: Part II – Gender in/authenticity and the in/visibility paradox, Engineering Studies 1(3): 169 Lisa Lee, Wendy Faulkner and Carme Alemany, Turning good policies into good practice: Why is it so difficult? (unpublished paper)

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