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Passionate men and rational Women: Gender contradictions in engineering
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Karlstad Business School.
2014 (English)In: Norma, ISSN 1890-2138, E-ISSN 1890-2146, Vol. 9, no 2, 97-110 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The dualism of rational/irrational and its relationship with masculinity and femininity has for a long time functioned as a process of including men in and excluding women from the fields of technology and engineering. This article highlights individuals, life stories, and everyday practices that deviate from this stereotypical division in order to pave the way for more diversified perceptions of the gender practices performed in engineering, specifically in relation to the place that technology has when women and men choose a career in engineering. Contradictory examples may thus serve to undermine the processes and the generalization perpetuating the stereotypical and prevalent perceptions of women and men and serve to challenge essential assumptions of gender and technology. The findings show that there are significant differences between the gender stereotypes of the engineer and engineers in reality, and that the ideology of rational men and irrational women in engineering is mistaken. This underlines the fact that neither gender nor technology is a constant or a given, but that it should continuously be reinterpreted. The empirical data consists of the life stories of 46 computer and mechanical engineers, 26 of whom are women and 20 men.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2014. Vol. 9, no 2, 97-110 p.
Keyword [en]
technology, engineers, dualism, stereotypes, career choice
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-38002DOI: 10.1080/18902138.2014.908629OAI: diva2:855778
Available from: 2015-09-22 Created: 2015-09-22 Last updated: 2015-10-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Den raka och den krokiga vägen: om genus, ingenjörer och teknikkarriärer
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Den raka och den krokiga vägen: om genus, ingenjörer och teknikkarriärer
2015 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Straight roads and winding roads : on gender, engineers, and technology careers
Abstract [en]



The purpose of this doctoral thesis is to shed light on, explain, and problematize women’s and men’s paths both to and within the profession of engineer. Computer and mechanical engineers are in focus and the overarching issues that this thesis attempts to answer are: How can women’s and men’s paths to the profession of engineer be explained and what has governed/motivated their choice of education? How do women’s and men’s career patterns look in professional life, and how can these patterns be explained?


This study is based on a social-constructivistic approach, entailing a focus on how choices of education and profession have been negotiated through social and cultural practices, norms, and values. The thesis combines work science research with research into the gender and technology fields. In particular, the relationships between gender, technology, and labour market gender segregation are of key importance in this thesis. The four part studies of the thesis are based on three qualitative studies and on one quantitative study. The qualitative studies consist of interview surveys with a total of 24 computer and mechanical engineers and 22 IT consultants. The quantitative survey is an exhaustive survey of 3,662 working IT engineers.


My studies show that the career patterns of women and men in the profession of engineer differ. Men’s paths both to and within the profession tend to be “straight” while women’s are often “winding”. The thesis shows that historically established, often stereotypical, conceptions of gender contribute towards recreating these different paths for women and men. At the same time, tendencies towards change are indicated. This is made visible through a gradually changing view of both father- and parenthood, which in and of itself is creating new prerequisites for women and men in working life. In concluding, the thesis proposes a new term, technology career, as an analytical tool for continued studies of gender segregation in technology and engineering professions. The aim in using this term is to capture the social complexity and cultural dynamic as regards how technology and gender are co-produced.

Abstract [sv]


”Jag har ju en yngre bror som har stöttat mig i det här. Han har ju samma utbildning som jag men han valde ju rätt med en gång [   ] han gick mera den raka vägen än min krokiga.”


Såhär säger Kristina om sin väg till ingenjörsutbildningen och till ingenjörsyrket. Till skillnad från hennes yngre bror var hennes väg ”krokig”, medan hans var ”rak”. Denna avhandling tar sig an den könssegregering i ingenjörsutbildningar och i ingenjörsyrket som Kristinas berättelse återspeglar. I fokus står data- och maskingenjörer. Detta är två av de mest könssegregerade ingenjörsgrenarna, och betraktas ofta som ”mansyrken”. Genom såväl kvalitativa intervjuer med ingenjörer och en kvantitativ totalundersökning av över 3000 ingenjörers karriärmönster, undersöker avhandlingen vilka tecken på förändring som syns i ingenjörsyrkets könssegregering. Vilka är hindren för kvinnor att ta plats inom yrket, och vilka möjligheter finns?


Line Holth är forskare i arbetsvetenskap och verksam vid Handelshögskolan och Centrum för genusforskning vid Karlstads universitet. Detta är hennes doktorsavhandling.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstad University Press, 2015. 129 p.
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2015:42
Gender, technology, gender stereotypes, choice of education, gender segregation, working life, fatherhood, masculinities, technology careers, IT engineers, mechanical engineers, genus, teknik, könsstereotyper, utbildningsval, könssegregering, arbetsliv, faderskap, maskuliniteter, teknikkarriärer, IT-ingenjörer, maskiningenjörer
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Science
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-37822 (URN)978-91-7063-660-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-10-09, Erlandersalen, 11D 227, Universitetsgatan 1, 651 88, 14:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-09-25 Created: 2015-09-02 Last updated: 2015-10-01Bibliographically approved

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