Gender into Teaching
Gender into Teaching was the first project in Austria to develop strategies, how to implement gender topics into two fields, physics and electrical engineering at a Technical University. The faculties’ motivation to participate is to increase the number of female study beginners (number of female students: electrical engineering: 7%, physics: 15%) as well as to change their public image, which they feel is negatively connoted and biased in favour of men. The total number of beginners is decreasing. One possible reason for this is the recent rise of so called Fachhochschulen (universities of applied sciences) which offer more focussed and shorter programs of study for various engineering fields.
The situation in Austria is special because most of the beginners in engineering programmes (nearly 80 % in electrical engineering) come from specialized technical high schools (abbreviated in German as “HTL’s”) where students starting their studies at the age of 15. This early-start program has resulted in a low rate of enrolment for women in university programmes since female students have difficulties in catching up with their (mostly male) HTL counterparts. One aspect of the problem is the recruiting and retention of female students. Another problem is the lack of communication among students who must manage their studies within an old-fashioned, very hierarchical teaching system. A change in status-quo is therefore needed. Additionally there are nearly no female faculty members employed at the moment. The primary goal of the project, namely, is to establish gender contents within the curricula since our dialogue partners are not prepared to understand these concepts at the moment.
“Gender into Teaching” started by building up a steering committee to develop actions to build up collaborations with selected decision makers. With this strategy we hoped to raise personal awareness and the acceptance within the faculty, so that they were more likely to initiate real changes. The first step was a gender analysis of the cooperating fields. Specific needs as well as existing positive attempts were identified (such as, the faculties’ recruiting program and at physics the “mathematics zero”-tutorials for beginners). The actions suggested were the following:
1.Giving advice to improve the presentation of the faculties to the public and the use of recruiting methods to attract a more diverse body of students.
2. Offering gender trainings and didactic trainings for teachers.
3. Propose changes to the curriculum, especially concerning the very beginning of the first year’s courses.
4. Establishing offers to study for female students only.
Further information is available in German or please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
period: October 2005 – December 2007
Vienna University of Technology, Koordinationsstelle für Frauenförderung und Gender Studies