Women’s Participation in Makerspaces

Women’s Participation in Makerspaces is a research project undertaken by Tara Whelan under the supervision of Dr. Nora O’Murchu.

Makerspaces serve as meeting points where communities of new and experienced makers connect to work on tangible and personally meaningful projects, informed by helpful mentors and peer expertise, using new technologies and traditional tools. This research presents an empirical investigation of these spaces and examines how the models of pedagogical and social practice within makerspaces can support the participation of women and girls.

Research regarding the demographics of European makerspaces is sparse, but surveys of American and Chinese makerspaces indicate that about 81% of makerspace members are men (Karlin Associates, 2012) – a figure that is similar to the gender breakdown at major tech companies. With STEM fields showing consistent shortfall in terms of graduates needed for industry positions, it is imperative that the issues keeping women out of these fields be addressed. Makerspaces promise to be an effective portal into these fields.

The aim of this research is to construct what best practice looks like in regard to structures, activities and pedagogies in makerspaces, when given the aim of activating and supporting the groups most excluded from the “New Industrial Revolution” – i.e. those of a non- technological background, young learners, those from economically or socially disadvantaged groups, and – in particular – women. By understanding and addressing what excludes these groups from these spaces, we can attract them to making; and through making, to technology.

Duration: 2015- 2019

Main contact in IDC:

e: tara.whelan@ul.ie

List of IDC-based members:

  • Tara Whelan
  • Nora O’Murchu