Constructing and enacting gender through discourse: negotiating multiple roles as female engineering students

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Humanities


College is an important setting in which to examine how gender roles are constructed and enacted through discourse. The multiple gender-role demands and conflicts are especially evident in the discourse of women studying at a technological university. Women who are learning to become engineers must either accommodate to or resist the gender roles and discourse of this androcentric profession. Analysis of the discourse of students in classes and in small-group discussions at a technological university provides evidence that women are caught in the tension between conflicting gender-role demands. In their academic exchanges, women display a variety of linguistic behaviours that defy easy gender stereotypes. This gender polarization arises from years of strong, dichotomous gender role socialization, starting at birth. The women, especially, engage in social interactions that demand a more complex notion of socially constructed and manipulated gender roles. Most students are aware of the ratio of women to men and the strains which that ratio places on social relationships.

Publisher's Statement

© 1996, Taylor and Francis. All rights reserved. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Rethinking Language and Gender Research: Theory and Practice