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Understanding Mexican Faculty Descriptors of Engineering Using Metaphors to Help Explain Gendered Boundaries

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

WIED Poster Session

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1572.1 - 22.1572.9



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Paper Authors

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Silvia Carreno-Castillo Universidad de las Américas, Puebla

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Aurelio Lopez-Malo Universidad de las Américas, Puebla


Enrique Palou Universidad de las Américas, Puebla

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Enrique Palou is Director, Center for Science, Engineering, and Technology Education; and Professor, Department of Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering at Universidad de las Américas, Puebla in Mexico. He teaches engineering design, food science, and education related courses. His research interests include emerging technologies for food processing, creating effective learning environments, and building rigorous research capacity in science, engineering, and technology education.

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Understanding Mexican Faculty Descriptors of Engineering Using Metaphors to Help Explain Gendered BoundariesIn Mexico – as in most Latin American countries – engineering remains an area of highereducation with persistently low levels of female enrollment, although female representationvaries significantly along engineering disciplines. The need for an increase in women'sparticipation in this male dominated area has widely been recognized. In order to betterunderstand this phenomenon, it is necessary to understand the engineering culture through theiragents: professors, administrators, and students of an Engineering School. In this paper, we willfocus on the perceptions of the faculty about identity, defining engineering, pressure agents,boundaries, and gender. For the analysis, we will use the metaphor of “boundaries” as describedby Pawley [1] and Bourdieu’s theory of the scientific field [2] in order to define the structuralposition of each engineering discipline in the field to help make visible the “social practices” ofthe engineering faculty members with the intention to evaluate if there is any relation betweentheir explicit or implicit descriptions of engineering or their specific discipline withinengineering and the historical and social influenced ideas about women’s and men’s work [3].From an interview with the Dean of the Engineering School at University ABC, we identifiedthat within the eight (Chemical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Food, Industrial, Mechanical, andMechatronic) undergraduate degrees in engineering offered, women are enrolled in all, and thatthe proportions of men and women vary importantly among disciplines. Further, only around18% of women are part of the engineering faculty.Sixteen faculty members from the Engineering School were interviewed to help answer thefollowing questions: to what extent are social practices and identities in engineering disciplinesgendered and/or gendering? How do faculty members’ descriptions interact with historically andsocially influenced ideas about women’s and men’s work? Interviewed engineering facultymembers were from a small, private, and very prestigious university dedicated predominantly toteaching. These faculty members were selected from a pool of potential participants usingmaximum variation, trying to choose them in order to provide a balance of engineeringdisciplines. Of the selected and invited faculty, none refused to participate. Interviews weresemi-structured and lasted on average 90 minutes each.As a result of the interview analysis, the situation in a Mexico is not very different to othercountries; domestic work in this country continues to be done more often by women.Nevertheless this perception is changing very slowly within the faculty members. We identifiedboundaries related to the type of engineering work and the role of women in engineering that arehelping us to make visible gendered social practices in engineering disciplines. There wereseveral differences among the studied engineering disciplines about the participation of womenin this area.[1] Pawley, A. 2017. Gendered boundaries: using a “boundary” metaphor to understand faculty members’ descriptions of engineering. Proceedings for the 37th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Milwaukee, WI.[2] Bourdieu, P., Passeron, J.C. 1972. La Reproducción. Elementos para una Teoría del Sistema de Enseñanza. Barcelona: Ed. Laia.[3] Connell, R.W. 2002. Gender. Malden MA: Polity Press.

Carreno-Castillo, S., & Lopez-Malo, A., & Palou, E. (2011, June), Understanding Mexican Faculty Descriptors of Engineering Using Metaphors to Help Explain Gendered Boundaries Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18960

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