Gender Studies has its origins in women’s studies, which it still covers to this day alongside men’s studies and gender research. It revolves around the pivotal role of gender in science and society. It is hard to find a field in which gender has no impact at all and in which no distinction is made between people based on whether they are ‘male’ or ‘female’. Gender is not considered to be something determined by nature and is instead subject to social and cultural mechanisms of construction. Gender research looks into how people come to be defined as ‘men’ and ‘women’ alongside the ramifications of the related processes.
The vast majority of students at TU Wien are yet to come across any explicit gender-related questions over the course of their studies. In fact, gender aspects are missing entirely from most of the technical and scientific fields of study.
Does technology have a gender?
From a quantitative point of view, merely looking at the ratios on courses in scientific and technical disciplines says a lot about attitudes towards gender within technology. And then we have the qualitative side of things: Technology is not gender-neutral within our society. Instead, its use is rooted in a social system of gender-specific attributions and stereotypes surrounding technical competence.
Prevailing common beliefs relating to technology and gender dictate that men and women are fundamentally different, comparing people of each gender within a hierarchical system. You could summarise our general concept of technology and gender roughly as follows:
“Men/boys are good with technology and we will believe this to be true until we have definitive proof to the contrary. Women/girls are not good with technology and we will also believe this to be true until we have proof to the contrary!”
Is it possible to imagine technology any other way?
Introducing the gender category sees critical scientific questions be asked of the relevant subject and the hierarchy of subjects. Processes relating to shaping technology are extremely significant on a socio-political level. The related negotiation processes take place within a framework defined by society, gender and technology. In line with this, it can be assumed that the preference for certain technologies and the corresponding rejection of alternative technological concepts are to be explained by a social consensus that also reflects gender relations within our society amongst other things. Given that technological developments are having more of an effect on every aspect of our public and private lives than ever before, involvement in processes relating to shaping technology is becoming more and more relevant. At the moment, shaping technology is far from being participative and gender-sensitive. Adopting the gender dimension into training courses at the TU is a step in the right direction.