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Gender Diversity in Maker Spaces?

Maria Schwarz-Woelzl, Elisabeth Unterfrauner, Christian Voigt, Centre for Social Innovation, Austria

#FabLabs have spread around the world, including rural areas and developing countries (Gershenfeld, 2008). #Inclusion constitutes one of the core values in the maker and FabLab movement. This is also expressed by the aims to make machines for #digital fabrication accessible to anyone, in terms of economic affordability and in terms of education (Krannich, Robben & Wilske, 2012). With this focus, FabLabs potentially connect to a number of SIC networks such as Community-Led Innovation, Collaborative and Sharing Economy, and of course Digital Social Innovation. Although there are initiatives that support #diversity in the maker communities, there is still the image of „white male nerd dominance“ (Grenzfurthner & Schneider, 2009).

A recent cross-case analysis of 10 European maker initiatives with 40 interviews indicates that there are four times more male makers than female makers, a gap that propagates into comparisons for specific machines, getting as high as 10 times more male makers than female makers trying printed circuit board etching. The findings show a need for dedicated measures to overcome the persistent genderisation of tasks and interests.. #Activities targeting women and female role models were seen as instrumental in
increasing female participation in making. Dedicated events, where female makers and hackers can be among themselves would be a step toward more gender equality too. Places organized by and for women could increase comfort since most maker spaces give influence to those who can spend the most time in a space and “mark territory by gestures and male habitus” (Wuschitz, 2013).

Further, appropriate language and visibility of both women and men, communicating equal expectations for girls and boys, while accepting individual
approaches to making (regardless of gender) would be supportive in closing the gender gap in the maker community. Further findings from the cross-case analysis, conducted by Centre for Social Innovation in the framework of the EU funded project MAKE-IT, can be found here.

References:
Gershenfeld, Neil. Fab: the coming revolution on your desktop–from personal
computers to personal fabrication. Basic Books, 2008.
Grenzfurthner, Johannes, und Frank Apunkt Schneider. Hacking the spaces. na,
2009.

Krannich, Dennis, Bernard Robben, und Sabrina Wilske. „Digital fabrication for
educational contexts”. In Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on
Interaction Design and Children, 375–76. Lassiter, SACM, 2012.
http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2307174.

Voigt, C., Unterfrauner, E., & Stelzer, R. (2017). Diversity in FabLabs: Culture,
Role Models and the Gendering of Making. In International Conference on
Internet Science. Thessaloniki, GR: Springer.
Wuschitz, S.: Female Makers, http://www.p-art- icipate.net/cms/female-
makers/, 2013.