Gender Studies in MINT

Gender & Technology
Summer Term 2020
Dr. Mercedes Küffner



Online Lecture

Current announcements:

Start: 15.05. 2020 10:15 - 11:45 Uhr

For more information, please contact Mercedes Küffner (Email)

Course Content

This seminar provides insights into the interdisciplinary academic field of Gender Studies by showing how human gender concepts influence and drive technological development in hard- and software. We will discuss why we as humans, engineers & programmers should critically scrutinize our own understanding of 'Gender & Technology' and why diversity in tech teams is critical, aiming at promoting equal opportunities, self-awareness, self-empowerment and transparency within innovation and technology.

Starting from a strictly biological, binary model to modern, non-binary concepts which emerged from the need to differentiate the biological sex of the individual and the psychological self-perception as women or men, students will get to know different gender theories and models which have been developed over time.

After exploring the spectra of sex and gender as concepts, we will discuss gender in the context of different STEM fields and how technology effects, forms and impacts human gender norms and vice versa.

Finally, we will evaluate how a better understanding of gender embodied in technology would help to design criteria for hard- and software in ways that are less biased, safe, effective, and promote social equality in a non-binary logic and in non-binary systems.

This seminar moves past conversations of implicit bias to think about gender in tech at a system level and tackles the question how we could be more inclusive with the technology we create.

*** All creatures welcome! ***

Teaching practices

Presentation of a selected paper and active participation.

Teaching goals

Students get to know current theories and central questions to Gender Studies in STEM. They develop a scientific understanding of sex gender as category in social science and science studies and learn to apply basic methods from theoretical and empirical gender studies. Interdisciplinary approaches will be taught.

This innovative seminar brings scientific dialogue and critical discussions from humanities into STEM - a field that often lacks it.



[1] Kitchin (2017): Thinking critically about and researching algorithms
[2] Noble, S. U. (2018). Algorithms of oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York University Press.
[3] Yeung: 'Hypernudge' (2016): Big Data as a Mode of Regulation by Design

Video input

[1.a] Our body, expression and identity are three distinct, but interrelated components that comprise a person's gender. Each of this dimensions can vary greatly across a range of possibilities. A person's comfort in their gender is related to the degree to which these three dimensions feel in harmony.
Understanding the Complexities of Gender | Sam Killermann at TEDxUofIChicago. 3 May 2013.

[1.b] Why do we think there are only two genders? Because there are cultures that believe there are many more than two genders. And what's the difference between sex and gender?
The Origin of Gender | Sep 25, 2018

[2] Did you know that cars were only tested on male crash test dummies, ignoring risks of injuries for women? Or, that women were more vulnerable than men to the effects of climate change? Traditionally, science has always considered the male as the norm and built its results accordingly. But recent studies have shown that gender and sex can actually influence research results. This video explains how applicants to MSCA grants and H2020 projects can improve the quality of their research by addressing sex and gender in their proposal.
The gender dimension in research | #WomeninScience #H2020, Aug 16, 2018

[3] David Grossman explores the ‘gender-equality paradox’ proposed in a new study which suggests that more gender-equal countries have fewer women pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The 'gender-equality paradox' in STEM fields | BBC Newsnight, Feb 15, 2018

[4] How exactly does gender work? It's not just about our chromosomes, says biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu. In a visionary talk, she shares new discoveries from epigenetics, the emerging study of how DNA activity can permanently change based on social factors like trauma or diet. Learn how life experiences shape the way genes are expressed -- and what that means for our understanding of gender.
The biology of gender, from DNA to the brain | Karissa Sanbonmatsu, Feb 11,2019

[5] The common thinking on biological sex goes like this: females have two X chromosomes in their cells, while males have one X and one Y. In this myth-busting talk, science writer and podcaster Molly Webster shows why the so-called "sex chromosomes" are more complicated than this simple definition -- and reveals why we should think about them differently.
The weired history of the "sex chromosomes" | Molly Webster, Nov. 2019

[6] Companies often target consumers based on gender, but this kind of advertising shortcut doesn't just perpetuate outdated stereotypes -- it's also bad for business, says marketing expert Gaby Barrios. In this clear, actionable talk, she explains why gender-based marketing doesn't drive business nearly as much as you might think -- and shows how companies can find better ways to reach customers and grow their brands.
Why gender-based marketing is bad for business | Gaby Barrios, Sep. 2019