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its implications. The number of women entering the profession has stabilised at a very low level, 5.1% in 1998. This, it is suggested, is because of a number of issues:the subject choices available to girls in the second level sector; the uncertainty among parents and teachers about the profession; and the stereotypical image of engineering as an unsuitable career for a girl. In combination these articles serve to illustrate the ideological base which is so ingrained in our thought processes and institutions as to condition the nature of debate in these areas to such an extent that they appear gender neutral.Given such a scenario education is seen as a process of socialisation or ‘fitting in’ and this is why the Real Life Rita’s of Leonard’s article (Vol.1.) are so few in number and are in her estimation at greater risk academically, psychologically,financially and socially than any other student group. Her analysis of Mature Female Students in Higher Education in Belfast rests on an illumination of what happens in the merging of the public world of higher education and the private world of women’s lives. Her findings that mature women students are older, married/living with a partner and most likely to be studying Arts or Social Science are consistent with others in the field. Significantly, she found that, “it was the presence of a male within the household rather than the presence of children that had the greatest impact on opportunities to find time to study”(p.54). McGinn (Vol.1.) in her article similarly explores the experiences of a group of women who took part in an Access Courses in the N.C.I.R. and describes what she calls the situational,institutional and dispositional barriers facing them on their return to learning. These findings raise questions not only about funding, access and admissions but also about the structures which need to be put in place to support mature students who return to learning. The work of Smyth and Hannan (Vol.1.) suggests that the foregoing interplay has its origins in a schooling system which, again under the guise of gender neutrality, replicates the gender segregation of the workplace by creating ‘appropriate’ knowledge bases for girls and boys.In an article called Girls and Second Level Education they explore the debate on academic performance and subject choices in single sex and co-educational schools and argue that this gender differentiation has a significant impact not only on the occupations that young women are likely to pursue but also on their self-image. Quinn (Vol.1.) develops this argument further in her examination of the perception of twenty-two disadvantaged young women of the schooling process. She argues that a system predicated on the concept of competing to succeed operates from a knowledge base, which is middle class and patriarchal, where growing credentialism has created barriers for those who experience educational disadvantage. Because the system fails to validate their personal experience, they internalise the expression of exclusion by opting out. In such a situation, the school process becomes a vital component in internalising traditional gender roles and the underachievement of those from marginalized communities where “daring to hope for more than the socially acceptable and locally expected is too much to ask”(p.195). It is this discourse of marginalisation and exclusion which women articulate 61