The culture of engineering: Woman, workplace and machine

TitleThe culture of engineering: Woman, workplace and machine
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1981
AuthorsHacker, S. L.
Secondary TitleWomen’s Studies International Quarterly

Questions arising from research on automation and women’s work have led me to explore patriarchal elements in the culture of engineering/management. In an elite technological institute, the engineering faculty, compared with the humanities faculty, reported more distance in childhood from experiences and qualities generally gender-linked with females–intimacy, sensuality, one’s own body, social complexity. Engineers valued social hierarchy on a continuum giving most prestige to scientific abstraction, least to feminine qualities. Such values were transmitted in the engineering classroom, for example, through professors’ jokes, to a new generation of engineering/ management. A persistent mind/body dualism was exhibited, subordinating sexuality and the body, and elevating scientific abstraction. The dualism translated into a mechanical view of the person and to continued separation of functions of mind and hand. Further examination of mind/body dualisms may help us to understand how the persistence of this body of ideas in Western technology affects labor processes, and in particular, women, workplace and machine.