Gender and Tech Writing

Subject: Gender and Tech Writing
From: Anatole Wilson <aw3a+ -at- ANDREW -dot- CMU -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1993 11:53:01 -0400

>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

Though I'm not a researcher, I think you're looking in the wrong area.
There's probably more of a correlation with the growing availability of
computer technology to non-technical customers, who have demanded
clearer, more user-focused software and documentation.

Anatole Wilson
Masters in Professional Writing program,
Carnegie Mellon University

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