Original Research

Gender regimes and gender relations in higher education: The case of a civil engineering course

Noshmee D. Baguant, Hyleen Mariaye, Thabo Msibi
Transformation in Higher Education | Vol 8 | a263 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/the.v8i0.263 | © 2023 Noshmee D. Baguant, Hyleen Mariaye, Thabo Msibi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 December 2022 | Published: 18 September 2023

About the author(s)

Noshmee D. Baguant, Higher Education Commission, Moka, Mauritius
Hyleen Mariaye, Mauritius Institute of Education, Moka, Mauritius
Thabo Msibi, School of Education, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa

Abstract

This study documents how hegemonic masculinity is experienced through the lens of five female students registered in an engineering course using a single instrumental case study research contextualised in a national university in Mauritius. It analyses how these relations and interactions are interpreted and integrated in the ways the participants are choosing to ‘do gender’ reflecting critically on what this reveals about acceptance of and resistance to these gendered cultural norms by aspiring women engineers. Interpreted from the lens of gender regimes (Connell 2002), the findings indicate how male students legitimised their power by foregrounding the physical inadequacy of their female classmates, the cultural barriers associated with the rough vocabulary of builders which are certain to cause discomfort to female engineers, and the physically strenuous working environments, all of which are designed to assert a male reading of what engineering work is about. What is, however, also evident is the acceptance of these views by some female participants who feel compelled, to accept ‘male help’ designed to enforce some form of control and superiority. ‘Beating the boys’ on their own preferred terrain of abstract thinking appears to be a way for some participants to level the field despite against attempts to represent engineering knowledge as ‘male’, and only allowing privileged female students to access such understandings is a common gatekeeping exercise endorsed by male classmates.

Contribution: This study shows the deep transformations that need to be brought about in higher education settings, particularly in small island contexts where the dominant culture is often silently resistant to progressive equality agenda.


Keywords

gender regimes; female engineering student; higher education; engineering; gender relations

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 5: Gender equality

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