Upping the Numbers
Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Mary C. Mattis
Chapter 3: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Women Engineering Students’ Experiences of UK Higher Education
Abigail Powell, Barbara Bagilhole and Andrew Dainty INTRODUCTION The UK engineering industry is quantitatively and hierarchically maledominated. This is signiﬁcant given the societal importance and impact of engineering on people’s lives. Engineering has a popular image of being tough, heavy and dirty, and from a student’s point of view, hard sums and greasy metal. These powerful cultural images have helped to reproduce occupational segregation whereby engineering has been perceived as unsuitable for women. Despite these widely held views, some women do decide to study engineering with the possibility of pursuing a career in the sector. This chapter explores how some of these women experience engineering in higher education (HE) in the UK. The ﬁrst part examines the issue of women in engineering and engineering education, highlighting the importance of increasing the number of professional women engineers. The second part investigates the cultures that persist in engineering and higher education generally which act as barriers to women’s progression, before addressing speciﬁc cultural factors in engineering education that may hinder women’s advancement to the engineering professions. The ﬁnal part of the chapter sets out the ﬁndings of an Economic and Social Research Council project into these issues. It begins by describing the methodology used and proceeds to analyse women’s experiences of UK engineering education in terms of the good, the bad and the ugly. These terms are explained using examples from the research ﬁndings later in the chapter. 47 48 Experiences WOMEN IN ENGINEERING Nancy Lane, co-author of ‘The Rising...
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