The Feminist Engineering Classroom: A Vision For Future Educational Interventions

Alice Pawley
2004 Annual Conference Proceedings   unpublished
In the quest for the gender equalization of the engineering profession, a variety of strategies are being developed and used in daily engineering education practice. Colleges and universities are recruiting girls and women in increasing numbers into the so-called "engineering pipeline" by using camps, special classes, printed and internet-based advertising, and/or "girl-power" media programming to make engineering's image more appealing -for example, as fun, socially useful, and
more » ... y. Concurrently, engineering instructors and faculty are redesigning engineering education using different classroom techniques more congruent with current managerial trends found in industry. These lean towards a focus on group work and interdisciplinarity, which have the added advantage through their political and material reputation as being purportedly more "women-friendly" than traditional methods. These different interventions are crucial in the nation-wide quest to have men and women more proportionately represented in engineering. Arguably, the last bastion is to address the content of engineering courses, which has changed only superficially. This is despite considerable theoretical and practical critiques of science and engineering practice in academia that have been made by feminist researchers and educators. This paper introduces the field of feminist science studies to engineering educators, discusses various explicitly feminist approaches to changing content in engineering, and challenges engineering educators to consider what a "feminist engineering classroom" might consist of with respect to content. make if scientists as a population were more diverse? Is any fact objectively knowable?" (p. 25) Allen's case is an unusual one in part because working in both fields requires a fluency in two difficult and jargon-laden languages -that of her science, and of feminist science studies. However, this fluency is worth attaining, as feminist critiques of science are crucial to improving scientific theory and practice. In particular, feminist science studies offer new theoretical frameworks to analyze women's longtime underrepresentation 2,3 in engineering and the physical and biological sciences in the United States. 4 While substantial advances have been made overall, progress has begun to stagnate over the last decade. A new approach, involving an existing body of literature that engineering education has heretofore overlooked, might provide a more nuanced understanding of this disproportionality, and might allow for more effective solutions. In this paper, I argue that we have yet to understand what effect the gendered nature of the content of engineering and our engineering courses has on men's overrepresentation in engineering, and I propose that we use work done on gender in feminist science studies to address this omission.
doi:10.18260/1-2--13390 fatcat:5z2drbag5bf4nctmnu36opjf2y