June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Women in Engineering
23.489.1 - 23.489.14
Engaging Foucault to Better Understand Underrepresentation of Female Engineering FacultyUnderrepresentation of female engineering faculty persists across the country. Moreover, thenumbers of female faculty remain disproportionate to the numbers of women receiving PhDs inengineering, and those numbers are even lower for women of minority racial and ethnicbackgrounds. Despite decades of attention and effort, significant change in the numbers offemale faculty has not occurred, and change is predicted to remain slow well into the future.Given that underrepresentation persists despite the large amount of time, energy and moneyspent on increasing the numbers of female engineering faculty, we suggest that new theoreticalperspectives are needed to better understand the challenge. To that end, this paper demonstrateshow Foucauldian notions of power, which are currently under-engaged in the engineeringeducation literature, can advance research on underrepresentation.Michel Foucault was a highly influential philosopher, historian, and social theorist whosetheories of power have been taken up by scholars in a wide range of social science andhumanities fields. One of his most significant contributions to social thought lies in areformulated conceptualization of power. Rather than something held and imposed on us bythose with authority over us, power is exercised through our own thoughts, actions anddiscourses. It operates at the microlevel, and the goal for scholars who aim to better understandthe operation of power is to examine how it functions at the individual level and what resultsfrom its operation.Data for this analysis came from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with twenty-nine facultymembers in science, technology, engineering, and agricultural fields at a large, public researchuniversity in the Mid-western region of the United States. Throughout the interviews — whichcovered a range of topics, including parental leave and challenges of faculty careers — power, inthe Foucauldian sense of the term, emerged as a significant factor shaping female facultymembers’ career paths and decisions. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to identify anddiscuss the ways in which Foucault can be engaged to better understand faculty careers andunderrepresentation.The article begins with an overview of our theoretical lens: Foucauldian notions of power.Following that is a two-part literature review on: 1) challenges faced by female faculty members,and 2) engagement with Foucault in engineering education literature. After a description of ourmethods, we present our findings, identifying ways in which further engagement with Foucault’sscholarship can help engineering educators and administrators better understand both thechallenges faced by female engineering faculty and persistent underrepresentation of femalefaculty. Specifically, we identify the following topics that would benefit from furtherengagement with notions of power: 1) gendered family roles, and 2) policy use. We then discusshow Foucauldian perspectives, which are currently under-engaged, can advance scholarship onwomen in engineering. Lastly, we summarize future work planned around this topic.
Beddoes, K., & Schimpf, C. T., & Pawley, A. L. (2013, June), Engaging Foucault to Better Understand Underrepresentation of Female STEM Faculty Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19503
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