9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN14 Gender Relations in the Labour Market and the Welfare State

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Gender and Science & Technology Careers I Building AA, Auditorio Afonso de Barros

'Mavericks' and 'Motley Crews' - Careers of Men and Women Working at the University-Industry-Interface

While the transfer activities of scientists have received increasing attention in research we know little about the careers of women and men working at the university-industry interface. To close this gap our research examines their careers, how they define and present their careers, and how they cope and prevail in the field of technology transfer. Drawing on expert interviews with 40 CEOs and employees of technology transfer organizations in Germany we ask (1) how the occupational field is structured, (2) what the building blocks of a 'career' in technology transfer are, and (3) whether there are gender differences in the career accounts of men and women.

We show, first, that technology transfer as an occupational field in Germany is characterized by many entry and exit points, and the incorporation of people with diverse occupational backgrounds and experiences. The field displays a near perfect gender balance on the surface but marked differences between and within organizations. There are more men then women at prestigious and professionalized transfer units and almost all decision-makers are male.
Second, technology transfer offices are usually staffed with a mix of highly qualified employees, experts who are not engaged in research and development itself but support and manage the commercial science marketplace. The career accounts of these men and women were perforated with traces of the 'nomadic', 'boundaryless' or 'portfolio' career typical for the service or ICT industry. Finally, men and women alike drew on the transitory nature of transfer work and evoked pictures of the staff as a 'motley crew', teams of diverse people, coming from various disciplines with different backgrounds and careers - but all highly motivated by the autonomy and opportunity space provided in the field. Men were stressing aspects relating to choice, self-realization, and independence. Women were generally more reluctant in their accounts and reporting their motifs. They often considered their work temporary in nature and 'second best', in particular when compared to a career in science. In contrast, men scripted their careers in entrepreneurial 'maverick' spirit, often explicitly acknowledging that the career path was taking them 'away from the laboratory bench'.