Book review: Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology: Three decades of UK initiatives

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Today, women play an active part in many occupations. However, it has not always been easy, particularly in technical fields. Women in Science, Engineering and Technology provides an overview of UK initiatives that have been in place since the 1970s to encourage women and girls into non-traditional occupations.
The book starts by describing the changing sociopolitical, economic and political climate over the past three decades. This has provided a backdrop for initiatives focusing on getting women in technology roles. The next two chapters will focus on initiatives for girls in education as well as women in the workplace.
Chapter 5 focuses on socially excluded women and training courses that encourage them to take on’men’s jobs. The last chapter examines government and corporate activity related to women’s participation science, engineering, construction, and technology in relation economic priorities.
The author concludes that women should only be encouraged to work in non-traditional areas if it is economically feasible. Equal opportunity is not a goal in and of itself.
The author does not proclaim the need for government intervention. In fact, she states that patriarchal structures of state and big businesses make it unlikely that such intervention would be successful.
Although this may seem to be a negative view of women’s contributions to science and technology, the book is positive overall and recognizes the efforts of many individuals and groups that have had an influence on women’s career choices.
Combining the various initiatives and a changing educational environment, more women are choosing ICT jobs than manual trades.
The author believes that this is more to do ICT permeating all aspects of modern life and “the unshakeable masculinity” of the construction industry than any specific educational initiative to encourage women to enter technology careers.
Although the book is a textbook, it can be useful for anyone who has an interest in women in tech. It raises questions about the way education was done in the past. Girls were taught about computers using topics such as celebrities and dance to keep their interest, not technology to get them a job or technology for its sake.
This raises questions about our perception of current educational initiatives. However, Phipps acknowledges her book is only the beginning of an analysis of the topic and that initiatives around women’s participation science and technology are currently under-researched.
This review has been accepted by The Computer Journal for publication
Trentham Books, 2008, Alison Phipps, Women in Science, Engineering and Technology: Three decades of UK Initiatives, Alison Phipps ISBN-13: 978 1 85856 402 9. PS16.99. 610pp. Paperback
SPOTO, The Computer Journal 2008; doi: 10.1093/comjnl/bxn044

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