South Asian females and technology education: A study of engagement and disengagement in Britain

Mirza, Mehreen Naz (2002) South Asian females and technology education: A study of engagement and disengagement in Britain. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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My thesis is concerned with the engagement and disengagement of South Asian girls and women with technology education in Britain. The research arose out of the need to establish whether South Asian girls and women had been included in, and benefited from, the attempts to encourage more girls and women into the fields of science, engineering and technology.
Existing theoretical, especially feminist, frameworks for understanding the experiences of girls and women in science, engineering and technology, were largely silent about the experiences of minority ethnic girls and women, especially those of South Asian heritage; their experiences and perspectives were subsumed under an assumed generic female experience, which I have termed 'universal wonian' syndrome. Similarly, existing theoretical discourses for understanding the specific experiences of South Asian girls and women in education and the labour market, were too broad in focus and unable to offer any commentary about their position in relation to specific subjects and/or occupations.
My thesis is intended to make a contribution towards assessing whether the initiatives to proniote girls and women into technology are of relevance and applicability to South Asian girls and women.
I adopted an 'anti-oppressive' epistemological and methodological framework within which to locate the research process, from initial conceptualisation to final data analysis. In particular I focused on anti-racist, feminist, and Black feminist epistemology and methodology. I utilised both quantitative and qualitative methods, within a reflexive framework for gathering and analysing data, in order to respond better to changing research circumstances.. My thesis is intended to make a contribution to the wider understanding of epistemological and methodological research issues, especially in terms of the applicability of anti-racist, feminist and Black feminist standpoint epistemology. It is intended to contribute especially to our knowledge about ethical concerns which researchers need to be cognisant of from the outset of their research project.
Data was gathered and analysed by me using a grounded theory approach, which resulted in my use of a theoretical model proposed by Anthias and Yuval-Davis (1992).
This theory is intended to examine the connections between gender and ethnicity in the process of nation-building, but I felt that it could also be used to explain the ways in which gender and ethnicity acted upon the South Asian girls and women in their choice of subject of study and subsequent jobs/occupations.
The data analysis revealed that many of the initiatives to encourage girls and women into fields in which they were under-represented, had had very little, if any impact upon the subject and occupational choices of South Asian girls and women in this study, as those initiatives had focused on addressing primarily, if not exclusively gender issues, whereas the lives and decision-making processes of the South Asian girls and women were informed by the experience of a particularly ethnicised-gendered experience.
Consequently the thesis moves beyond focusing exclusively on the ways in which South Asian girls and women make choices about technology education and occupations, to a concern with how they make choices about education and work in general, through negotiating with various discourses around questions of gender, ethnicity/race, class and religion.

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