gender and tech writing

Subject: gender and tech writing
From: Randy Allen Harris <raha -at- WATARTS -dot- UWATERLOO -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1993 13:13:56 -0400

CAUTION: the words "paradigm shift" appear below.

I haven't done any serious historical work in the discipline,
but I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who
has, on the following impressions. Over the last decade and
a bit, there has been a major shift in tech writing, from
a necessary evil, delayed until the last possible moment,
and carried out by an ex-engineer, to a central activity,
integrated into the product cycle, and carried out by a
cooperative group of trained communicators. I know that both
extremes of this shift are exaggerated here, that there were
enlightened companies in the sixties and that that there are
neolithic companies still. But the general trend is undeniable.

Now, hasn't the profession also seen a huge influx of women
practitioners in roughly the same period? Does anyone who knows
the numbers, and who knows the history, have any comments on
whether the paradigm shift in tech writing might be correlated
to gender. I know that discourse specialists tell us that women
work more effectively in cooperative groups, men in competitive
isolation (allowing for the caricature necessary to summarize
these positions for an electronic posting). But has anyone
looked into these correlations seriously?

Randy Harris, U of Waterloo, raha -at- watarts -dot- uwaterloo -dot- ca

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