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Females on technology courses in UK Colleges

French, Sheila and Saxon, Diane (2006) Females on technology courses in UK Colleges. In: The encyclopedia of gender and information technology. Idea Group. ISBN 1591408156

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Abstract

This article reports the findings of a funded research project carried out in two further education (FE) colleges in the North West of England. The under-representation of women in the technology sector has been the focus of various initiatives in the United Kingdom (UK) over the last 30 years, and FE, with its emphasis on vocational and practical skills, could be seen as an effective route to redress this imbalance. However, data from colleges continues to show that student females are also under-represented on technology courses in the sector. The project is seeking to gain a greater understanding of the experiences of young women on a number of technology courses where the majority of students are male. The outcomes of the research are intended to inform the FE colleges’ developing strategies on how to improve the recruitment and retention of females, so helping to redress the gender imbalance on the technology courses in the study. Research studies of this nature are rare in the FE sector, as it is largely a neglected field of study for educational research in gender and technology. In this project, we provide a forum in which the experiences of the female students in the sector can be discussed. The research focuses on the young women who “have arrived” and are currently studying technology subjects in the colleges. We report that gendered notions of technology courses still prevail and these have an impact on the choice of course, progression to technology industries and issues of confidence with technology. Overall, we highlight some of the issues that make the female students’ experience of occupying “male spaces” an uncomfortable one.

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