Skip to main content Accessibility help

Challenging Boundaries to ‘Employability’: Women Apprentices in a Non-Traditional Occupation

  • Alison Andrew (a1)


This article is based on a case study of women apprentices and workers in a ‘non-traditional’ occupation for women, engineering construction. The article argues that the concept of ‘employability’ is not gender neutral, and that gendered assumptions about who is and is not ‘employable’ for particular work can disadvantage women seeking training and work in non-traditional industries or dissuade them from applying to do so. Approaches to employability which emphasise individual attributes underplay the significance of gender inequalities and wider discourses of gender.



Hide All
Bagilhole, B. (2002), Women in Non-Traditional Occupations: Challenging Men, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Beck, V., Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (2006a), ‘Increasing risk in the “scary” world of work? Male and female resistance to crossing gender lines in apprenticeships in England and Wales’, Journal of Education and Work, 19, 3, 271–89.
Beck, V., Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (2006b), ‘Safety in stereotypes? The impact of gender and “race” on young people's perceptions of their post-compulsory education and labour market opportunities’, British Educational Research Journal, 32, 5, 667–86.
Berner, B. and Mellstrom, U. (2000), ‘Looking for mister engineer: understanding masculinity and technology at two Fin de Siecles’, in Berner, B. (ed.), Gendered Practices: Feminist Studies of Technology and Society, Linkoping, Sweden: Department of Technology and Social Change, Linkoping University, Distributed by Almquist and Wiksell International, pp. 3268.
Britton, D. (2000), ‘The epistemology of the gendered organization’, Gender and Society, 14, 3, 418–34.
Carter, R. and Kirkup, G. (1990), Women in Engineering: A Good Place to be?, Basingstoke: Macmillan Education.
Clarke, L., Pedersen, E.F., Michelsens, E., Susman, B. and Wall, C. (eds.) (2004), Women in Construction, Belgium: CLR/Reed Business Information.
Clarke, L., Pedersen, E.F., Michielsens, E. and Susman, B. (2005), ‘The European construction social partners: gender equality in theory and practice’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, 11, 2, 151–77.
Cockburn, C. (1987), Two-Track Training: Sex Inequalities and the YTS, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Cohen, A.P. (1985), The Symbolic Construction of Community, London: Routledge.
Collinson, D.L., Knights, D. and Collinson, M. (1990), Managing to Discriminate, London and New York: Routledge.
Dale, A., Jackson, N. and Hill, N. (2005), Women in Non-Traditional Training and Employment, Working Paper Series, 26, Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission.
Dryburgh, H. (1999), ‘Work hard, play hard: women and professionalization in engineering – adapting to the culture’, Gender and Society, 13, 5, 664–82.
Du, X.-Y. (2006), ‘Gendered practices of constructing an engineering identity in a problem-based learning environment’, European Journal of Engineering Education, 31, 1, 3542.
Equal Opportunities Commission (2001), Sex Stereotyping: From School to Work, Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission.
Equal Opportunities Commission (2004), Plugging Britain's Skills Gap: Challenging Gender stereotyping in Training and Work, Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission.
Evetts, J. (1996), Gender and Career in Science and Engineering, London: Taylor & Francis.
Faulkner, W. (2005a), ‘Belonging and becoming: gendered processes in engineering’, in Archibald, J., Emms, J., Brundy, F. and Turner, E. (eds.), The Gender Politics of ICT, Middlesex: Middlesex University Press, pp. 1526.
Faulkner, W. (2005b), ‘Engineering workplace cultures: men's spaces and in/visible women’, Webcast lecture for the launch of ‘Science, engineering and technology: a course for women returners’, The Open University, 3 November 2005,
Halford, S. and Leonard, P. (2006), Negotiating Gendered Identities at Work, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Henwood, F. (1998), ‘Engineering difference: discourses on gender, sexuality and work in a college of technology’, Gender and Education, 10, 1, 3549.
Kvande, E. (1999), ‘In the belly of the beast: constructing femininities in engineering organizations’, European Journal of Women's Studies, 6, 305–28.
Lave, J. and Wenger, E (1991), Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Miller, L., Neathey, F., Pollard, E. and Hill, D. (2004), Occupational Segregation, Gender Gaps and Skill Gaps, Working Paper Series, 15, Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission.
Miller, L., Pollard, E., Neathey, F., Hill, D. and Ritchie, H. (2005), Gender Segregation in Apprenticeships, Working Paper Series, 25, Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission.
McDowell, L. (1997), Capital Culture: Gender at Work in the City, Oxford: Blackwell.
McDowell, L. (1999), Gender, Identity and Place, Cambridge: Polity.
McQuaid, R., Green, A. and Danson, M. (2005), ‘Introducing employability’, Urban Studies, 42, 2, 191–5.
McQuaid, R. and Lindsay, C. (2005), ‘The concept of employability’, Urban Studies, 42, 2, 197219.
Moreau, M.-P. and Leathwood, C. (2006), ‘Graduates’ employment and the discourse of employability: a critical analysis’, Journal of Education and Work, 19, 4, 305–24.
Priola, V. (2007), ‘Being female doing gender: narratives of women in education management’, Gender and Education, 19, 1, 2140.
Ridgeway, C.L. and Correll, S.J. (2004), ‘Unpacking the gender system: a theoretical perspective on gender beliefs and social relations’, Gender and Society, 18, 4, 510–31.
Rodd, M. and Bartholomew, H. (2006), ‘Invisible and special: young women's experiences as undergraduate mathematics students’, Gender and Education, 18, 1, 3550.
Sagebiel, F. and Dahmen, J. (2006), ‘Masculinities in organizational cultures in engineering education in Europe: results of the European Union Project WomEng’, European Journal of Engineering Education, 31, 1, 514.
Stonyer, H. (2002), ‘Making engineering students – making women: the discursive context of engineering education’, International Journal of Engineering Education, 18, 4, 392–9.
Wall, C. and Clarke, L. (1996), Staying Power: Women in Direct Labour Building Teams, London: London Women and Manual Trades.
Watts, J. (2006), ‘The outsider within: dilemmas of qualitative feminist research within a culture of resistance’, Qualitative Research, 6, 3, 385402.
Weller, S. (2007), ‘Discrimination, labour markets and the labour market prospects of older workers: what can a legal case teach us?’, Work, Employment and Society, 21, 3, 417–37.
Wenger, E. (1998), Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Whittock, M. (2000), Feminising the Masculine? Women in Non-Traditional Employment, Aldershot: Ashgate.
Yandell, J. and Turvey, A. (2007), ‘Standards or communities of practice? Competing models of workplace learning and development’, British Educational Research Journal, 33, 4, 533–50.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Social Policy and Society
  • ISSN: 1474-7464
  • EISSN: 1475-3073
  • URL: /core/journals/social-policy-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed