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Dr. Laura Puaca, associate history professor at Christopher Newport University, presents “Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Engineering Since 1940” as part of the Hampton History Museum’s free “Lunch in Time” series on Wednesday, March 20, noon-1:00 p.m.
In her illustrated talk, Dr. Pauca will focus on early efforts to expand American women’s participation in engineering beginning in World War II. In the two decades before the women’s movements of the 1960s, a number of women and women’s organizations, such as the Society of Women Engineers, tirelessly campaigned to enhance female representation in the field. Amidst the Second World War and Cold War, these reformers not only worked to gain women’s admittance to previously all-male engineering programs and schools, but also collaborated with government officials, teachers, and guidance counselors to help reshape public perceptions of engineering as a career for women. In doing so, they established scholarships, published vocational guidance materials, spoke at career days, judged science fairs, and created mentoring opportunities for young women.
These early efforts are significant because they paved the way for later efforts to encourage women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and even today, proponents of women’s engineering education and employment continue to rely on many of these strategies. They also face many of the same obstacles with regard to gender stereotyping. By looking at past and present efforts to improve women’s engineering participation as well as representation of women engineers, Dr. Pauca will shed light on the gains achieved to date as well as the ongoing struggle to improve women’s acceptance in the field.
Dr. Puaca is associate professor of history at Christopher Newport University. She is also the director of CNU’s minor program in women’s and gender studies as well as the founding director of the Hampton Roads Oral History Project.
Her teaching and research interests include modern U.S. history, women’s and gender history, science and technology studies, and the history of social movements. She is the author of Searching for Scientific Womanpower: Technocratic Feminism and the Politics of National Security, 1940-1980 (UNC Press), which won the History of Science Society’s 2017 Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize. She also won the 2017 Disability History Association’s Publication Award for Best Article/Book Chapter for her essay, “The Largest Occupational Group of All the Disabled: Homemakers with Disabilities and Vocational Rehabilitation in Postwar America.” Building on this research, she is currently working on a new book-length project examining disability and domesticity in the post-World War II United States.
The program is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring lunch. The museum will have free dessert.
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