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Gendered Habitus in Engineering: Experiences of Brazilian Students

Eduardo V Bonaldi, Elizabeth B Silva


This paper discusses the ways in which an ‘engineering habitus’, which in the first instance presents itself as a predominantly masculinized habitus, because its inclinations, competences and dispositions are homologous to the cultural repertoire traditionally associated with men, changes with the growing presence of women in the field. We draw from the perspective advanced by Bourdieu, in particular the key notions of habitus, capital and field, to explore how particular competences, dispositions and classificatory principles emerge in this field. The study is based on qualitative in-depth analysis of the socialization trajectories of 10 students (five men and five women) enrolled in an engineering degree in a new publicly-funded Brazilian university, as well as on quantitative secondary data about the students, placing the data in broader national and international contexts. The socialization trajectories of both women and men in studying engineering demonstrate that the socialization experiences of women are patterned by a double bind in cultural repertoires that affect traditional associations with gender. An engineering gendered habitus not conforming to the stereotypical and dominant masculine is in evidence, as women not only develop competences and dispositions homologous to the traditional masculine habitus, but also show inclinations and affinities traditionally associated with femininity. The growing participation of women in engineering drives this process, challenging traditional gender divisions and propelling a more flexible gender engineering habitus in the field.


STEM field, engineers, habitus, engineering habitus, gender, gendered habitus, concerted cultivation, double bind, Pierre Bourdieu

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