Female Engineers As Part of the Sales Team: (Un)Doing Gender and Differences

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Sabine H. KRAUSS, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Universität Innsbruck, Austria
My contribution is based on my own empirical research related to the (un)doing of gender and other differences performed by women working as sales engineers. It draws on the aspect of what sales engineers wear and therefore on clothes as material artefacts which shape the body. My research focuses on a field which I denote as a twofold male dominated and connoted field. First, technology is male connoted. Second, sales in the sense of business-to-business sales and including face-to-face customer contact and travelling is connoted as a male occupation.

In Germany, there are many initiatives to get more women into study programs and professions in the field of STEM-disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). One can see this as an economic need but it is also a question of justice as professions within this field are highly remunerative. Additionally, there are also voices saying that women are perfect candidates for sales and distribution. Therefore, women should not face discrimination.

However, my findings show that it is still difficult for women working in technical sales. Their body plays an important role as they face injustice and sexualized violence. Related to their biography and on different situations they encounter in their job (the fair, the customer visit, the training of industrial workers) they have and need different strategies and options to handle their situation. Clothing is one important aspect.

But violence is not only practised by male customers or colleagues against women, violence can also be found in the language female sales engineers use to describe “other” women as not being feminine enough or being too feminine. Presenting oneself as an exceptional woman therefore is one strategy to both emphasize that one is “really” a woman and be able to be part of the powerful male world of sales engineering.