Skip to main content

From women operators to technical assistants: women in the BBC’s wartime engineering division.

Terkanian, K., 2022. From women operators to technical assistants: women in the BBC’s wartime engineering division. Women's History Review, 31 (4), 580-602.

Full text available as:

09612025.2021.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

[img] PDF
RWHR1944347_snapshot (1).pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


DOI: 10.1080/09612025.2021.1944347


Men have long dominated the engineering professions, with women’s lower participation rates often explained as a disinclination—downplaying how organisational structures actively exclude women. The Second World War provides ample opportunity to explore women’s large-scale entry into engineering fields, as wartime labour shortages expanded women’s opportunities in technical fields. Like many wartime organisations, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recruited women to fill technical roles previously barred to women. From 1941, women were trained and deployed to control rooms, studios and transmitters, and were paid and promoted on equal terms as with men—dismantling, at least temporarily, the division’s gendered structure. Ultimately, over 900 women trained as technical assistants during the war, but just seventeen remained in the Engineering Division into the 1970s. Using BBC archival documents and oral history interviews, this article investigates how the BBC integrated women into technical roles, the challenges that their introduction posed to ingrained gendered structures and hierarchies, and why the numbers of ‘survivors’ was so low. In doing so, it argues that women’s eventual exclusion from BBC Engineering in the post-war era was not a wholesale reversion to pre-war norms, but a choice grounded in BBC engineering’s management structure and sense of prestige.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:broadcasting; gendered labour; Second World War; engineering
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:35730
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:06 Jul 2021 10:50
Last Modified:12 Jul 2022 15:23


Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -