Looking through glass walls: Women engineers in Portugal
Women Studies International Forum, Volume 45, July–August 2014, Pages 27–33
by Luisa Saavedra, Alexandra M. Araujo, Joao Manuel de Olivera and Christine Stephen
Women face significant barriers adjusting to the professional culture of engineers, which is strongly connected to hegemonic masculinity. This study aims to investigate how Portuguese female engineers negotiate their identities and subjective positions in a relational environment marked by this dominant form of masculinity. Drawing on the analyses of interviews with 39 female engineers, we focused on the ways women position themselves in this professional culture and cope with the gender regimes they experience in this environment. Using a Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, we identified an essentialist and dichotomous discourse about what it is to be a man or a woman in engineering and the following four themes: disguising differences with similarities, assuming differences by valuing femininity, assuming differences and inequalities, and maintaining limits and respect. The participants in this study seemed to be stuck in a prison with transparent and unbreakable glass walls, which risks their personal and relational well-being.