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Feature: From the BWAF Bookshelf: Re-thinking Education and Cities

September means school is back in session, and with that a time for new thoughts and learning. This September we also get to celebrate cities with the Institute for Urban Design’s Urban Design Week. In honor of these events, the BWAF Bookshelf selections discuss ways of changing our education system to promote women in technical fields, and ways of re-envisioning cities with women in mind. Even though these books were written over a decade ago, they discuss important issues that are still relevant today, and give a historical backdrop to contemporary discussions.

Book covers from left to right: Gendering The City, Balancing the Equation, and The Power of Place. ^ see below for photo credits.

Balancing the Equation: Where are Women and Girls in Science, Engineering, and Technology?

Mary Thom
(National Council of Research on Women (NCRW), 2001)

Balancing the Equation has been called a “must-read for every educator, policy maker, and business leader in America”. It highlights critical reasons to advance women and girls in science, engineering, and technology, and calls for systemic change from early education to business and industry. It provides a blueprint for creating and maintaining gender equity and includes chapters on changing education, interviews with key leaders in the fields, and resource guides on best practices that can be replicated to promote women’s and girls’ success in the sciences, including the work of NCRW member centers.  The report concludes: Balancing the equation for women and girls requires strong leadership, changes in cultural values and practices, and systemic reform of institutions.

Gendering the City: Women, Boundaries, and Visions of Urban Life

Kristine B. Miranna and Alma H. Young
(Rowman & Littlefield, 2000)

This volume challenges the imagery of cities by looking through a gendered lens at how women utilize urban space. Focusing on the conceptual and methodological manner of boundaries, the book reminds us that women are members of multiple and diverse groups and as such, they can be active, creative, and powerful agents. Multidisciplinary essays, contributed by urbanists, geographers, political scientists, and historians, explore the ways in which women confront, break down, resist, and form new boundaries and interconnections, both visible and invisible. Arguing for a change in the traditional agenda of cities, the authors investigate how aspects of urban life and space would look considerably different if the alternative options presented by women and other marginalized groups were taken into account.

The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History

Dolores Hayden
(MIT Press, 1995)

The Power of Place, while published almost 20 years ago, proposes still fresh perspectives on gender, race, and ethnicity that broaden the practice of public history and public art, enlarge urban preservation, and reorient the writing of urban history toward spatial struggles.  Author Dolores Hayden, Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies at Yale University, drew from her extensive experience in the urban communities of Los Angeles to write the book.  Dividing the book into two parts, Hayden dedicates the first part to the elements of a social history of urban space to connect people’s lives and livelihoods to the urban landscape as it changes over time. She then explores how communities and professionals can tap the power of historic urban landscapes to nurture public memory. The second part documents a decade of research and practice by The Power of Place, a nonprofit organization Hayden founded in downtown Los Angeles. Through public meetings, walking tours, artists’ books, and permanent public sculpture, as well as architectural preservation, teams of historians, designers, planners, and artists worked together to understand, preserve, and commemorate urban landscape history as African American, Latina, and Asian American families have experienced it.

^ Photo Credits: Photos were obtained from publishers’ websites.

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