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Researching UK Women Professionals in SET: A Critical Review of Current Approaches

Sarah Barnard, Abigail Powell, Barbara Bagilhole, Andrew Dainty


In the UK and elsewhere, progress and achievements in tackling the under-representation of women in science, engineering and technology (SET) are far outweighed by the investment in this area in terms of both research and initiatives. The authors attempt to explain this by presenting a critical analysis of the development of research on women professionals in SET. This critique is structured around four approaches identified in the literature: essentialist constructions of science and gender; barriers facing women professionals in SET; the assimilation of women in SET; and the business case for change. It is argued that existing research in the field does not always offer practical solutions for change and has a tendency to situate women as part of the problem. It concludes that future research and solutions must be multi-faceted, evidence-based and policy oriented if equality is to be perceived not only as a ‘women’s issue’ and real cultural change is to be instigated in the sector.


science, engineering and technology, professions, cultures, occupations, gender

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