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Special Issue: Brazil
Published: 24-03-2014

Gendered Habitus in Engineering: Experiences of Brazilian Students

University of Sao Paulo

Eduardo V Bonaldi

Eduardo Vilar Bonaldi is a PhD Student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Sao Paulo.
The Open University

Elizabeth B Silva

Elizabeth Silva is Professor of Sociology at the Open University. Recent publications include Cultural Analysis: Bourdieu’s Legacy (co-edited), Culture, Class, Distinction (co-authored), Contemporary Culture and Everyday Life (co-edited) and various journal articles on Bourdieu, cultural capital, household technologies, family life, gender, visual art and qualitative methods.

Research interests are in the areas of the sociology of gender and sociology of technology, with a particular focus on culture, the everyday and domestic settings: gender and age divisions, family practices, motherhood and mothering. Empirical research has involved the integration of a variety of research methods, but currently focuses mostly on qualitative research, mainly ethnographic. Research has been strongly informed by cross-national and cross cultural comparisons.



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


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.

How to Cite

Bonaldi, E. V., & Silva, E. B. (2014). Gendered Habitus in Engineering: Experiences of Brazilian Students. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 6(1), 144–164. Retrieved from