Against the Odds: Women Developing a Commitment to Technology
Women are still under-represented in science, engineering and technology (SET). After ten years of reports, campaigns and schemes, the proportion of women in these professions had risen by 1990 from 2 per cent to 5 per cent (Devine, 1992). This chapter is based on research data on 275 women technologist returners who studied on the Open University's Women in Technology (WIT) scheme between 1981 and 1988. In a larger project which also includes a comparative group of 90 women new to technology, I have questioned employers' and trainers' perceptions of the career-break; explored aspects of the WIT women's discontinuous work-histories and argued that their experience exposes existing concepts of career as gendered constructs (Swarbrick, 1993). An ideology based on the separation of the public and private spheres enables the breadth and variety of the unpaid half of the WIT women's experience to be devalued, and their commitment to the public sphere of technology to be dismissed.