Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Gendered narratives: reading between the lines

Recently I have been tasked to take a lead on enhancing the participation, recognition and support of women in STEM: particularly electronics and computer science. I may not be making much impact on the approaches and attitudes if my colleagues, but my own radar has been notched up to fine tuned!

My observations:

  • I hear stories of everyday realities in education, learning, teaching and subject disciplines frequently presented as heroic narratives with male heroes.
  • I attend seminars when slides are illustrated by images of male authors, occasional female authors referred to by initials with no images - thus becoming invisible.
  • In presentations, references to female students encountering difficulties.
  • Female academic 'actors' referred to in passing, male 'actors' portrayed as the ground breakers and pathfinders.
  • Faculty discussions to ameliorate the position of female academics and postgrads are characterised by a model of deficits, the women are broken, help them mend themselves.
  • Discussions focussed on increasing the percentage of female participants focuses on undergraduates and outreach rather than implementing structural changes across the board.

The result?

I find myself
  • increasingly frustrated recognising the 'broken record' effect of this portrayal and discussion.
  • wondering about how to make change happen. This stuff is too important to be left to a few (mostly female) evangelists.
  • Seeking to identify and champion structural methods af making change happen
  • Seeking patronage for change
  • Being willing to hand over the kudos for making change happen to anyone else ;-)


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