The University of Sheffield and the social and solidarity company Access Space (and its Refab Space) recently supported a survey to understand the reasons for the low representation of women among users of hackerspaces and makerspaces in Great Britain.
Jen Lewis, researcher and organizer in Sheffield of Science girl, the network of scientific women, realized that women were under-represented in the IT sector where the proportion of women has even continually decreased since the 1980s. She wanted to understand what deters women from entering and getting involved in labs and took an interest in their access policies.
Jen Lewis based herself on interviews in a dozen of fablabs and hackerspaces in large British cities. In her twenty-page survey, she identifies the principal reasons of the under-representation of women: women are simply “less interested”…for the time being; it isn’t so much a man-woman problem but a techies vs non-techies problem; these are “too intimidating” places and not frankly pleasant; there often is “no objective”; it isn’t “easy to enter”; “you don’t really understand the vocation of the places” and you lack information on the activities that are offered.
The survey reminds us that in a society where the social and economic austerity measures already put low-income women at a disadvantage, labs must carry out proactive and continuous interventions to change certain practices that do not favor welcoming women and have their part in the unequal access to training and employment.