Deborah Menezes


There are more women engineers in road development today then there were two decades ago. This recognition, however, does not necessarily translate into palpable qualitative experiences for women engineers in the sector. Additionally, any problem of discrimination and sexism is hardly acknowledged in the face of numerical justifications. In this paper, the author writes a story about women in road planning and building by developing the importance of their everyday lived experiences. This paper takes as its focus women engineers involved in road development in Sri Lanka. Data used in this paper was gathered through field observations and in-depth interviews with 18 women engineers over a period of 7 months. My argument is built on two pillars: everyday life as an attempt to struggle between roles and everyday life as an attempt to enhance coping strategies. Thus on one hand, the paper gives voice to the feminist concerns for the way in which much of women’s time is spent attempting to overcome the separation of roles, and on the other hand, the strategies and agency that women use to establish their presence in professional roles within a highly gendered road development sector. A feminist interpretive lens is used to draw out the continuing problems women face in engineering. I conclude by pointing to bleak prospects for change to cultural practices however these gendered stories need to be written and told in order to understand and appreciate their significance to the women in development discourse.

Author Biography

Deborah Menezes is a Post-Doctoral Researcher on an ERC funded project ‘Roads and the politics of thought: Ethnographic approaches to infrastructure development in South Asia’ at the Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh. Prior to her post-doctoral tenure, she completed her PhD from the University of Edinburgh and graduated in July 2014, from which she has a burgeoning publication record. Her related research interests include gender, citizenship, aging, activism, agency, demography and development.