Gender creates fault-lines through technology as a result of the
gendered social systems that surround it, but equally the technology
influences the social systems, including that of gender, changing them
subtly and sometimes in ways unforeseen. According to Cynthia Cockburn
and Susan Ormrod (in Gender and Technology in the Making, 1993) one
important fault-line lies between technical knowledge and use knowledge.
Technical know-how (design, maintenance, though not necessarily fabrication
in the modern factory) tends to be predominantly a male preserve, and
female technical knowledge, for example of scientific cookery, is
simply not classed (or paid) as appropriately technical. Cockburn and
Ormrod were talking about the design, manufacture, wholesaling,
retailing and use of microwave ovens, but these fault-lines are
repeated, with slight variations, in most of what society chooses to
call “technology”: whether it is automobiles, bicycles, appliances or
The Gender and Technology Study Group began meeting in May of 1995 in the the Open University. It is a university wide group and welcomes members from all walks of life. Its activities are managed jointly by co-convenors Laurie Keller and Fiona Hovenden. It aims to provide a focus and a forum for research into all aspects of gender in respect of technology.