Towards a Gender Expansive Engineering – Part Two, Ideas and New Practices for Inclusion

The following is a blog post for the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) written by myself and Rachel Tenney. You can see it on the GradsWE blog here..

According to genderspectrum.org, “gender-expansive” has the following definition:

An umbrella term used for individuals that broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms. Gender-expansive individuals include those with transgender and non-binary identities, as well as those whose gender in some way is seen to be stretching society’s notions of gender.

We offer a few ideas on how we can move forward in our work to be more gender expansive and gender inclusive.

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Towards a Gender Expansive Engineering – Part One, What’s the Gender Binary?

The following is a blog post for the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) written by myself and Rachel Tenney. You can see it on the GradsWE blog here..

Gender in engineering is an important and much-discussed topic. This might be why you are reading this blog. Organizations such as Society of Women Engineers (SWE) exist specifically due to the underrepresentation and marginalization of women in engineering. However, gender is much more broad than just a simple two-category dichotomy of men and women. We would like to be sure that in our efforts to increase gender inclusion and gender diversity in engineering that we are paying attention to those different from us – women with complicated relationships to gender and nonbinary (third-gender category or otherwise not men/women identified) engineers. This is why SWE is welcoming not only to those who identify as a woman, but to everyone on the gender spectrum – including male allies. This is why we find this to be an important topic to our inclusivity in GradSWE.

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The trouble of reinforcing gender difference for women in engineering

Raising up role models without addressing misogynist gender-in-engineering culture leaves the root causes of gender discrimination unchecked and off of the hook. Phipps believes that recruitment and role models alone will not challenge gender stereotypes and may actually increase the perceptions of gender based difference.

What is wrong with the mantra and identity of “women engineers” as opposed to “engineers”? Is there trouble in saying boldly and loudly – our gender matters? Yes, and no. It’s complicated. We should talk about it and look at the research!

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On Being Included (in Engineering)

Pulling from the work of Sara Ahmed, I reflect on what “diversity work” means in an institution and what I have learned from her 2012 book.

Readers and peers will know from the onset that I am a big fan of Sara Ahmed. Her books Queer Phenomenology and Living a Feminist Life are texts I return to again and again. My research, my role, my career has turned towards “diversity, equity, inclusion” as buzzwords that flutter around the spaces I engage in.

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Phenomenology and Engineering Education Research

Moving towards methods defined as feminist requires moving beyond only considering the experience of the individual to further include context of the external forces which act upon the body.

An unpublished paper I wrote regarding phenomenology – its many flavors and its applications within engineering education research. “Qualitative and phenomenological methods are increasingly employed which use experience and narrative of individuals to shape emergent theoretical findings. I wish to open up this ‘black box’ and explore how phenomenology – in particular feminist and queer theory informed phenomenology – can complement dominant research methods within engineering education.”

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