Does the Engineering Culture in UK Higher Education Advance Women's Careers?

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Current research suggests that increases in the number of women studying engineering and related courses have not been matched by a similar increase in women engineering professionals. This suggests that although women are attracted to engineering, their experiences in higher education (HE) discourage them from pursuing their chosen career path. The paper explores whether the masculine culture of the engineering sector permeates the culture and curriculum in engineering HE, and if it does, what impact this has on women engineering students. This is achieved through semi-structured, qualitative interviews with a range of female engineering students from both the pre and post 1992 university sectors. Findings indicate that while women are not deterred from pursuing their chosen engineering career, the culture and structure of the engineering education system has been designed for a male audience. This suggests that engineering HE does not benefit most female students to the same extent as male students. It is recommended that HE engineering must review its structure, culture, practices and curriculum if it is to retain female engineering graduates and to attract more women into the sector. This paper fulfils an identified gap in research on women in engineering and will be of interest to university engineering departments and faculties and the Engineering Council, as well as to those in the fields of social policy, education and equal opportunities.
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Powell, Abigail
Bagilhole, Barbara
Dainty, Andrew
Neale, Richard
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