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“The Shop Floor is not for Every Woman”: Narratives on Women Industrial Designers’ Relationships with Shop Floor Workers

Pınar Kaygan


Although considerable attention has been paid to the role gender relations play in women’s disadvantaged status in technology-related professions, less emphasis has been placed on women’s relationships with manual workers. This study addresses this gap by examining narratives provided by a sample of industrial designers’ working in manufacturing companies in Turkey where their job also includes visiting the shop floor to supervise the workers who build the models of their designs. Exploring the relations between industrial designers and shop floor workers, this study addresses two questions: First, to what extent and in what ways does gender matter in the relationships between male industrial designers, female industrial designers and male shop floor workers? Second, what are the implications of these relationships for women’s status as professional technological workers within their manufacturing organisations? The results show that contrary to the mixed gender office environment, the male dominated shop floor is an explicitly challenging work setting for women who enter there in positions of authority. This situation is created not only by the resistance of male shop floor workers to women’s superior position, but is sustained mainly by men and some women industrial designers’ consideration of the superior position on the shop floor as only 'authentic' for those who can display the necessary masculinity, which is characterised by aggression, self-sufficiency and toughness. Women develop individual strategies to be accepted into the shop floor and to gain the respect of shop floor workers, since the quality and the punctuality of the models which they present to management is directly related to their reputation in the office.


gender relations, ideal worker, masculinity, technology

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