Women engineers in Britain, 1945-2000

Wray, Lesley (2006). Women engineers in Britain, 1945-2000. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d3ba


This thesis looks at the work of women engineers in the period 1945-2000. Its central focus is the impact gender had on the likelihood of a woman making such a career choice, on the training to become an engineer and on women's lived experiences in the work place. It discusses the impact of the equality legislation and considers the effect that the characterisation of engineering as a male profession had on the numbers of women in engineering and on their treatment.

The thesis approaches these subjects through a study of the experiences of a group of women engineers. Their life histories are set against the social and economic changes that occurred over the period. It encompasses both women who were engineers at the beginning of the period and those from later generations. The use of oral history allows a rounded picture of the changing experiences of women engineers, their career expectations and the degree of success that they achieved.

The thesis argues that the history of women engineers has been largely ignored. While their experiences have paralleled that of women in other careers, the continued overwhelming dominance of the profession by men has resulted in a number of assumptions regarding discrimination and harassment that remain unproven. It demonstrates that the social stereotyping of engineering discourages many women from considering the career, thus perpetuating both gender inequality and the myth that women are unwelcome in the career.

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