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Teaching Gender Issues To Undergraduate Engineering Students

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.389.1 - 2.389.6

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Ingrid H. Soudek

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2392


Ingrid H. Soudek Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication School of Engineering and Applied Science University of Virginia

As more women are graduating from Engineering Schools and entering work environments that are traditionally male, it is important to educate students, male and female, on gender issues. The School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia has a Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication which offers an array of courses which address the interface between technology and society, technical writing and oral presentation, as well as engineering ethics. We have found that teaching gender issues is very effective when coupled with the teaching of ethics and values of professionals. In this paper, I discuss the specific materials, methods and basic philosophy of teaching that are effective in teaching issues of gender.

My course, TCC 211, "Values of Professionals," explores the value framework, the "calling" of various professions, including engineering. To help students understand how one establishes the values for a particular profession, we talk about applied ethics and about what we consider right and wrong behavior both on the job and in our private lives. This, of course, includes gender and race issues. To address those issues, I use a deductive method: I start with general concepts first; then, once a frame of reference has been established, I address the specific issues through the use of examples from the course reading, news items, and personal narratives.

The book I use to introduce the class to some basic ethical concepts is Sissela Bok's Lying. Bok gives an overview of some classical theories of ethics and how various philosophers viewed the concept of lying, including her own perspective on different kinds of lies. She applies these ideas to contemporary professions and well-documented examples of lying by professionals, such as politicians and journalists in the Watergate case, doctors lying to dying patients, etc. We use these examples to explore in class how important truth-telling is in achieving the values of professionals. It also demonstrates to the students that it is of the utmost importance to consider the long-range consequences of one's actions, that a knee-jerk, self-protective reaction to an immediate dilemma can have dire consequences in the long run.

In order to develop the habit of thinking what is the best thing to do in the long run and for all concerned, I follow Bok with a section on "moral autonomy," what it is, and how to achieve it. I use the psychological theories of moral development presented by Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan. Their theories are particularly useful in teaching gender issues because both start out with the same basic ideas, but Gilligan shows how gender affects course of actions taken in

Soudek, I. H. (1997, June), Teaching Gender Issues To Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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