Navigating sexualised visibility: A study of British women engineers

Dulini Fernando, Laurie Cohen*, Joanne Duberley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we use the term ‘sexualised visibility’ to describe how in male dominated work settings such as engineering, women are inscribed with sexual attributes that overshadow and obscure other attributes and values. From a career point of view, sexualised visibility is deeply problematic. However, as yet we have only limited understanding of how women in such settings navigate sexualised visibility and what this means for their careers. Drawing on social identity based impression management (SIM) to examine the career experiences of 50 women in petroleum, mechanical and automotive engineering in the UK, we develop new insights into the relationship between perception, power and relations of visibility. Specifically we identify the interplay between career stage and power and show how the strategies that women adopt to navigate sexualised visibility in their work settings vary by career stage. Furthermore we argue that women's collective efforts to ensure a favourable representation of their group leads to the reproduction of an implicit but powerful prescriptive gender stereotype which constrains their career progression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-19
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Vocational Behavior
Early online date2 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Career
  • Engineering
  • Gender
  • Sexualised visibility
  • Social identity based impression management


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