Women in civil engineering: continuity and change.

Watts, Jacqueline Halina (2003) Women in civil engineering: continuity and change. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the career experiences of women civil engineers in the UK and examines how women negotiate their place in a highly male-dominated profession. T he thesis considers why women are under-represented in this profession, are rarely appointed to senior management positions and how changes in the business pattern of UK engineering consulting companies has created barriers or opportunities for women. Uncovering the detail of women's career expectations and experience was more suited to a qualitative approach to data collection. .A series of semi-structured interviews was carried out with thirty-one women engineers working in different sectors of the profession. The women were in a variety of personal circumstances, including single and married women, some with young children and others with no dependent caring responsibilities. The ages of the women ranged from twenty three to fifty six years with the majority having attained chartered status. The interviews focused on factors that affect career progression and these were discussed within the three themes of subcultures of the profession, work/life balance and possible agents for change. Quantitative membership data from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and other construction professions has been analysed to provide the context for the research. Feminist concerns about the relationship between women's role in the private sphere of the home and the public sphere of paid work have led to a theoretical framework that draws mainly on the work of Walby and Cockburn. This has been enhanced by Greed's gendered critique of the wider construction sector. The findings show that women feel isolated within the profession and t his isolation seems more pronounced for the few women who reach the top and also generally in the setting of the construction site. Despite attempts by some contracting firms to reform the culture of construction sites, this sense of isolation is heightened by problems of harassment in that setting. .Thus, for many women the prospect of working on site is still very daunting. .Equal opportunities policies have a low profile in the industry and this research shows that women working as professionals in construction do not see' equality' measures of this type as likely agents for change. The image of the profession as predominantly a 'male preserve’ continues. and the ICE is regarded as a 'very male club' which admits women only reluctantly. Although women report feeling marginalised within the profession many receive personal support from individual male and female colleagues and this factor can be critical to their career progress. Moving into management is seen as necessary for career success but some women are ambivalent about the negative impacts this may have on work/life balance. The culture of long hours is dominant and this marginalises women with caring commitments and reinforces male hierarchy within the profession.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfllment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy/Master of Philosophy.

Research Areas:School of Law > Criminology and Sociology
Theses
School of Law > Social Policy Research Centre
ID Code:6730
Deposited On:22 Nov 2010 16:09
Last Modified:21 Jul 2014 19:07

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