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'Arty' versus 'Real' Work: Gendered Relations between Industrial Designers and Engineers in Interdisciplinary Work Settings

In feminist studies from the last couple of decades, although social relations between workers have been acknowledged as an important site of gendering, less emphasis has been placed on the gendered implications of interdisciplinary relations. This paper addresses this gap by examining the experiences of industrial designers whose work requires close relationships with engineers. I argue that particular images and symbols associated with certain occupations have strongly gendered implications for their members. My argument is built on the office narratives I have collected through interviews with industrial designers working in various sectors in Turkey. Drawing on these narratives, this article shows that the interdisciplinary relations between engineers and industrial designers are constructed around a series of symbolic dualisms: 'real'/'arty', objective/subjective, technological/aestheticsbased and masculine/feminine. In the organizations where the former side of these dualisms are linked to the ideal technological worker image, and thus valued over the latter, industrial designers find themselves at a disadvantage in their relationships with engineers. In women's stories, the disadvantaged status associated with being a designer is also intertwined with being a woman, deepening their 'gender inauthenticity' for technological work. In light of these arguments, the paper highlights the need for a more critical and gender-sensitive analysis of the relationships in interdisciplinary design teams.