Gendered careers in science, engineering and technology: transforming spaces and changing identities

Herman, Clementine Channah (2015). Gendered careers in science, engineering and technology: transforming spaces and changing identities. PhD thesis The Open University.



Women remain under represented in science, engineering and technology (SET) professions, and for women who take career breaks returning can be difficult due to the persistence of gendered organisational cultures within these sectors. The papers collated for this PhD by Published Work bring a critical analysis to the experiences of women who return to work in SET after taking a career break and in particular the locations, both temporal and spatial, in which their careers and professional identities are developed, sustained and rekindled.

Reflecting on research and practice spanning more than 20 years, the papers illustrate the development of work on gendered careers in SET over this period. Specifically they show how structured interventions and strategies including training, education and career enhancing opportunities within employing organisations, as well as in women-only training centres and online spaces, have been able to support women’s career development in these sectors enabling them to enter, progress or return to SET professions.

The papers draw on a series of studies, predominantly in the UK but also in other European countries, based on a total of 76 biographical narrative interviews with women SET professionals. This is supplemented with survey data from 273 respondents, as well as focus group data and online forum postings. The papers bring a critical gender perspective to discourses about employability and careers in STEM, drawing on theoretical concepts such as doing gender, gendered organisations, sense of entitlement, empowerment and feminist pedagogy.

Key contributions include the development of a life course perspective on women’s SET careers, the creation of new models for analysing gendered non-linear and frayed career narratives, and methods for supporting identity work by women in their transition back into work. The papers include recommendations for educators and trainers, employers as well as policy makers concerned with trying to tackle the under representation of women in SET.

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