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A Phenomenological Exploration of Women's Lived Experiences and Factors that Influence their Choice and Persistence in Engineering

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Shawn Fagan Temple University

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Dr. Shawn Fagan is the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Affairs in the College of Engineering at Temple University. He received his Bachelor of Science in Education from The Pennsylvania State University, Master of Sport Administration from Belmont University, Master of Business Administration from Saint Leo University, and Doctor of Education from Temple University. Dr. Fagan oversees the day-to-day operation of the College of Engineering’s Office of Undergraduate Studies, Center for Academic Advising and Student Affairs, and the Career and Professional Development offices.

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Despite concerted efforts among the engineering community – educators, employers, research funders, policymakers, and engineering professionals – to increase women’s enrollment and persistence in undergraduate engineering programs, women’s underrepresentation in the engineering profession continues to persist into the twenty-first century. As a result of these trends, especially given women’s proportion of the overall U.S. population and college enrollment, the need for further investigation of the issue has been well established. While numerous studies have examined this issue, many have done so quantitatively and have only revealed a limited view of the complex issue. It has been recommended by the engineering community that an expanded use of qualitative methods be considered to address this research gap and to help provide a comprehensive understanding of factors that influence women’s choice and persistence in engineering. The aim of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of eleven female undergraduate engineering students at a large, comprehensive research university located in the northeast region of the U.S. to gain a better understanding of factors that help shape and influence women’s choice and persistence in engineering. Lent, Brown, and Hackett’s (1994, 2000) social cognitive career theory (SCCT) provided a guiding framework to illustrate how the participants’ educational choice behaviors were influenced by a number of variables related to their personal characteristics, experiences, and environment. To strengthen the study’s creditability member checking procedures were used to authenticate the findings and the interpretation of the participants’ experiences and triangulation methods were used to validate the findings and illustrate convergence in evidence across female student and faculty participants’ experiences. The findings revealed several recurrent themes across the participants’ experiences that aligned with the SCCT framework, offering a unique perspective of how choice and persistence in engineering took shape for the participants in the study.

Fagan, S. (2020, June), A Phenomenological Exploration of Women's Lived Experiences and Factors that Influence their Choice and Persistence in Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34033

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