Barriers to women’s involvement in hackspaces and makerspaces

We hosted and supported researcher Dr. Jen Lewis, and her exploratory work investigating gender-imbalance in hackspaces, funded by the University of Sheffield, leading to a public talk and discussion. The resulting report “Barriers to women’s involvement in hackspaces and makerspaces” is available here, and here is the abstract:

“This report uses interviews and – in the absence of a substantial body of empirical studies – existing informal research and media in order to elucidate the reasons underlying an observed gender-imbalance in the users of organisations known as ‘hackspaces’ and ‘makerspaces’. We frame this phenomenon in the wider context of a similar imbalance in the number of girls and women pursuing study and careers in STEM and computing subjects, and the benefits of achieving a more egalitarian community, for the individual, the organisation, and society in general. We identify several distinct ‘barriers’ to engagement, and provide suggestions for possible solutions. In the absence of empirical research, we suggest that organisations wishing to make change to improve the gender-balance of their user base should do so with caution and continuous feedback from their existing and target audiences in order to ensure efficacious change without disruption, and call for more research into this issue to verify or challenge the conclusions which we draw here.”

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