June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Women in Engineering
26.1711.1 - 26.1711.24
Vulnerable heroes: Problematizing metaphors of male socialization in engineeringBackgroundImproved mentoring and socialization of female students is critical for increasing theirparticipation and advancement in engineering disciplines and careers. Mentoringscholarship and practice have evolved over time in response to changes in thedemographic backgrounds and motivations of females entering engineering disciplines.For example, research has demonstrated that spotlighting, the singling out of women bygender in ways that make them uncomfortable, may lead undergraduate women engineersto experience challenges related to gender-bias even when the programmatic intention isto help women. Yet, the enduring academic and anecdotal image of male engineers’mentoring circumstances and socialization experiences is of a heroic journey. Maleengineering students are constructed as heroic protégés who are tested by stoic mentorson their ability to handle stressful situations and accomplish tasks independently withoutnurturing or care. Tasks are typically interpreted under the heroic metaphor as challengesthat emphasize individual achievement over cooperation. Such challenges presumablyleverage the instrumental and technical motivations of male engineers who prioritizeindividual achievement over collaborative endeavors that would require integration intolarger groups. The heroic metaphor suggests that male engineers are independent actorswho engage in solitary efforts that are driven by instrumental and technical self-interest.StudyWe interrogated the value of such simplistic framing of male engineers’ mentoringexperiences by interviewing 25 domestic and international male engineeringundergraduate, graduate students and post-graduate scholars at a large public universityin the United States about their mentoring relationships, work experiences, and careerdecision-making. Participants represented diverse socioeconomic, ethnic and nationalbackgrounds. Our effort follows on the premise that investigating how men possess andperform gender differently is important for rendering visible the heterogeneity ofcontemporary male experiences with mentorship and careers. We analyzed howparticipants’ varied articulations of their mentoring experiences related to their careerdiscourses. Analyses of transcribed interview data followed the inductive method ofconstant comparison and were guided by the criteria of recurrence, repetition, andforcefulness.ResultsOur analyses indicate that male engineers’ perceptions of mentoring may be analyzed interms of: (a) the interactivity of their mentoring relationships, and, (b) the extent to whichthey integrate task and relational aspects of mentoring. Male engineers’ varieddescriptions of mentoring relationships included observations of individuals sans directinteraction, and, close relationships that involved direct and frequent interactions. Amongparticipants who described direct interactions, variations were observed betweenengineers who compartmentalized mentoring relationships as task-focused, relationship-centered, or integrative of both task and relational aspects. We present a two-dimensionaltypology of mentoring mindsets that combine the extent of integration and interactivity tolocate participants’ conceptualizations of actual and potential mentoring relationships.We argue that the extent of integration in relational and task-oriented terms and the levelof interactivity in mentoring relationships reflect dialectical tensions articulated byparticipants in their career discourses. Male engineers interpret engineering careers asbeing simultaneously constraining and liberating. They aspire to financial prosperity incareers that are perceived as a narrow, constraining paths along which only limitedopportunities for self-fulfillment and creative expression may exist. They express apathyfor societal norms and expectations even as they seek career opportunities that might helpthem impact society in a positive manner. Male engineers decry the inadequacy of formaleducation in enabling genuine collaboration, and value collaborative work experiencesafforded by their education. It is well established that the culture of engineering isproblematic for females. Examining contemporary career discourses of male engineerssuggests that stereotypical, masculinist and individualistic discourses that permeateengineering can be problematic and constraining for men and women.!
Rajan, P., & Armstrong, C. T., & O'Connor , E. J., & Buzzanell, P. M., & Dohrman, R. L., & Arendt, C., & Oakes, W. C., & Zoltowski, C. B. (2015, June), Vulnerable Heroes: Problematizing Metaphors of Male Socialization in Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25047
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