22 SES 07 B, Gender in Academia
Historically engineering has been a profession predominately for men with a close relationship to technology. However, over the last decades this view has been under re-negotiation, and more heterogenic images of the engineering profession has developed, with expectations on leadership and “soft skills” (Mellström, 1999). For example, it has been argued that an engineer today needs to, apart from having a good conceptual understanding of basic science and mathematics, also possess generic skills such as creative and critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and logical and analytical decision-making. In addition, they need to know how to work in teams since social skills are “needed to work in today's workplace” (Sahin, 2010, p. 519). These changes of the demands and images of engineers have brought on changes of engineering education: Swedish companies express that they would welcome the inclusion of other than technical components in the curriculum, such as communication or language qualifications – as long as this did not replace the technological core (Teknikföretagen, 2012). One response from engineering educations to the changing demands on the engineer is the implementation of project-organised courses with the aim of fostering better team-working skills as well as providing better learning outcomes (De Graaff & Kolmos, 2007). The changes in the engineering education can be understood both against the backdrop of needs to increase and diversify the recruitment to engineering educations (Hemmo, Love, & OECD. 2008) as well as the need for engineers to be able to handle contemporary societal changes (Adams et al., 2011). In the light of the contemporary transformation of the engineering education and vocation it becomes relevant to consider the consequences for engineering identities. Earlier research on identity related to engineering professions and educations has often focused on gender issues, in particular the available identities for women within engineering (Du, 2006; Faulkner, 2007; Jorgensen, 2002; Kvande, 1999; Phipps, 2002). Du (2006), who explored engineering identity as a Danish university, found that engineering students associated the discipline with attributes such as problem-solving oriented, logical, structured, focused, rational, analytical, nerdy, and male. Issues related to social class are less well-explored, but has been brought to the fore in analyses of the construction of different classed masculinities (Mellström 1999; Wajcman 2000). In this paper we intend to explore some of the possible affordances and constraints for identity constitutions in the engineering educations of today:
The purpose of this paper is to explore representations of the engineering profession in information material about engineering educations, seeking to identify continuities and tensions between traditional understandings of engineering and contemporary demands on the profession.
-What characteristics are brought to the fore as important for the contemporary engineer?
-How are gender and social class constructed in representations of the contemporary engineer?
-What are the differences and similarities in these constructs between different universities and different levels of engineering education (bachelor and master)?
Theoretically, our research is positioned within feminist post-structural theories (Butler, 1990/1999) where gender and other social categories are seen as performatively constituted. Drawing on Butler’s concept of performativity we interpret identity as an active process, a ‘doing’. Analytically, this theoretical stance is operationalised through an approach inspired by critical discourse analysis, where discourse is seen as a form of social practice which both constitutes the social world and is constituted by other social practices (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997). Consequently, texts (including visual images) are understood as produced and received and interpreted through discursive practices, and, further, social and cultural reproduction and change are understood as taking place in every day (discursive) practices. Hence, discourses contribute to constructing social identities, relations, and knowledge systems (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002/2006).
Adams, R., Evangelou, D., English, L., De Figueiredo, A. D., Mousoulides, N., Pawley, A. L., . . . Wilson, D. M. (2011). Multiple Perspectives on Engaging Future Engineers. Journal of Engineering Education, 100(1), 48-88. doi:10.1002/j.2168-9830.2011.tb00004.x Butler, J. (1990/1999). Bodies that matter. On the discursive limits of “sex”. New York and London: Routledge. De Graaff, E., & Kolmos, A. (2007). Management of change: implementation of problem-based and project-based learning in engineering: Sense Publishers. Du, X. Y. (2006). Gendered practices of constructing an engineering identity in a problem-based learning environment. European Journal of Engineering Education, 31(1), 35-42. Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press. Fairclough, N., & Wodak, R. (1997). Critical discourse analysis. In: T. van Dijk (Ed.). Discourse as Social Interaction: Discourse Studies:A Multidisciplinary Introduction. London: Sage. Faulkner, W. (2007). 'Nuts and Bolts and People': Gender-Troubled Engineering Identities. Social Studies of Science, 37(3), 331-356. Hemmo, V., Love, P., & OECD. (2008). Encouraging student interest in science and technology studies. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Jorgensen, J. (2002). Engineering Selves. Negotiating Gender and Identity in Technical Work. Management Communications Quarterly, 15(3), 350-380. Kvande, E. (1999). 'In the belly of the beast' Constructing femininities in engineering organizations. The European Journal of Women's Studies, 6, 305-328. Mellström, U. (1999). Män och deras maskiner. Nora: Nya Doxa. Phillips, L., & Jørgensen, M. W. (2002/2006). Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage. Phipps, A. (2002). Engineering women: the 'gendering' of professional identities. International Journal of Engineering Education, 18(4), 409-414. Sahin, M. (2010). The impact of problem-based learning on engineering students’ beliefs about physics and conceptual understanding of energy and momentum. European Journal of Engineering Education, 35(5), 519-537. Teknikföretagen. (2012). Vilka ingenjörer behövs? Storföretagens syn på svenska ingenjörsutbildningar. Retrieved from Stockholm: Wajcman, J. (2000). Reflections on gender and technology studies: in what state is the art? Social Studies of Science, 30(3), 447-464.
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