"Imaginary Engineering" or "Re-imagined Engineering": Negotiating Gendered Identities in the Borderland of a College of Engineering


Explanations for women's continued underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have popularly employed a "leaky pipeline" metaphor. Recently, however, some have found the pipeline metaphor lacking in explanatory power for dealing with subtle, yet pervasive barriers embedded in specific cultures of engineering. The tension between culturally prescribed notions of masculinity, femininity, and engineering identities is one such barrier. Ethnographic interviews of 118 engineering undergraduates revealed multiple and shifting projects of constructing and claiming certain femininities and masculinities associated with engineering. Our analysis uses an intersection of feminist and discourse theory for a critical examination of multiple discourses contributing to the gendering of images, roles, positions, and a particular engineering discipline within our college and university culture. Loosened from the boundaries of gendered norms, this particular engineering discipline has become more "inviteful" to both women and men but requires different identity projects from each. Our goal is to contribute to discussions about gendered identities and cultures in engineering and to add our support to an emerging model in engineering education, the boundary model, for conceptualizing the movement of students into, across, and through the various domains of engineering.