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Keywords:

  • feminist theory;
  • gender;
  • women

Background

Women remain underrepresented in engineering despite decades of effort. Feminist theory may explain why some well-intentioned efforts actually reinforce the very conditions they seek to change.

Purpose (Hypothesis)

Our purpose is to understand and advance the use of feminist theory in engineering education research towards the goals of increasing gender diversity and equity in engineering. Specifically, we seek to address the following questions: How has feminist theory been engaged within engineering education scholar ship? And what opportunities exist for further engagement?

Design/Method

We analyzed articles from Journal of Engineering Education (JEE), European Journal of Engineering (EJEE), and International Journal of Engineering Education (IJEE) that had women or gender as a central part of their studies. Titles, keywords, and abstracts for every article in the journals were reviewed for the years 1995–2008. The 88 articles directly addressing gender or women in engineering were analyzed to determine their level of engagement with feminist theory.

Result

Feminist theory is not widely engaged or systematically developed in this scholarship. Most work rests upon implicitly liberal and standpoint feminist theories, but a minority of articles point to intersectional, interactional, and masculinity studies approaches. We identified several ways in which deeper engagement with a wider range of feminist theories can benefit engineering education scholarship.

Conclusion

Feminist theory is underutilized within engineering education scholarship. Further engagement with, and systematic development of, feminist theory could be one beneficial way to move the field forward.