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Female engineers in Russia’s rocket-space industry

Research Article

Анна А Подольская
National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
ORCID ID=0000-0002-7192-8231
Female engineers in Russia’s rocket-space industry.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2020. Vol. 11. No. 1. P. 153-169

Дата поступления статьи: 24.09.2019
This Article is downloaded: 261 times
Topic: Gender differences and their role in professional and labour relations

For citation:
Подольская А. А. Female engineers in Russia’s rocket-space industry. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2020. Vol. 11. No. 1. P. 153-169
DOI: https://doi.org/10.19181/vis.2020.11.1.632


This article examines the career types for women in the high-tech sectors of the Russian economy – based on the example of the rocket-space industry – and why women choose to pursue an engineering-technical education, and subsequently a career in the rocket-space industry. The theoretical framework for the study consists of the works of foreign and Russian authors devoted to studying the concept and types of career, as well as the employment of women in engineering trades. The empirical base consists of 33 semi-structured interviews with female engineers, including professionals from the “Soviet” generation and those who started their career after the USSR’s collapse. A hypothesis was put forward that women from the Soviet generation considered “rocket-space industry engineer” to be one of the more demanded professions, its appeal being attributed to space’s “romantic” flare, to one’s desire to partake in something of national importance, while the current generation of engineers is more focused on pragmatic aspects, such as the prestige and high demand associated with an engineering education, the opportunity to work at a government enterprise which provides a set of social benefits. The study shows that this assumption was only partially correct. Among the reasons for why the Soviet generation of female engineers chose the profession, the most prominent were a genuine interest in space, the “romanticism” associated with the trade, the opportunity to partake in activity which benefits the country, and, finally, the “dynasty” aspect, which in a number of cases turned out to outweigh the desires of the respondent. Among the post-Soviet generation of engineers, the defining factor for choosing the profession was one’s aptitude for precise science, the opportunity to receive a higher education in engineering, the trade being in demand on the labor market, while the “dynasty” factor mostly turned out to be an incidental aspect. In our time women mostly take into account their own preferences when it comes to choosing an education path, and subsequently a field of activity. Meanwhile, as was the case with the elder generation, a company’s history played a rather significant role when it came to them choosing a place of employment. The most frequently chosen career type for both the elder and younger generations of engineers turned out to be the “qualification” type. Meanwhile a combination of “qualification” and “scientific research” career types also turned out to be rather popular, while the combination of “qualification” and “official” types turned out to be less prevalent among those employed at rocket-space industry enterprises. Such career types as “monetary” and “executive” proved to be uncharacteristic for the respondents.



STEM, women engineers, space industry, types of women's careers engineer


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