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A Qualitative Study of Undergraduate Women in Engineering Project Teams

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division (WIED) Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering Division (WIED)

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Paper Authors

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Grace J. Liang


Rick Evans Cornell University

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Sociolinguist and Director of the Engineering Communications Program in the College of Engineering at Cornell University

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Mojdeh Asadollahipajouh


Stacey E. Kulesza, P.E. Kansas State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Stacey Kulesza is an associate professor in the civil engineering department at Texas State University. Dr. Kulesza is a graduate of the American Society of Civil Engineers Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEED). She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in geotechnical engineering.

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Anna Glushko Evans Kansas State University

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Graduate student at Kansas State University

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One intervention thought to foster women’s interest in engineering is introducing girls to STEM or engineering activities. The argument for this is that an increase in interest early in their lives will lead to more women pursuing a career in engineering. The focus of our research is women who are thriving as undergraduate student leaders in engineering project teams. We employ a multi-case study method that involves a sequence of semi-structured interviews. This paper speaks to the findings derived from the life history interview where participants describe their early lives and pre-college education. Our inductive thematic analysis of the data indicates that: (1) The women’s early familial influences allowed non-gender defined ways of being, doing, and aspiring for trying new things. (2) This re/definition of gender in relation to self is reinforced by their success in school and through their accomplishments in other extracurricular activities. Those activities were not confined or even heavily weighted toward STEM. (3) Not all of the women assumed leadership roles throughout their K-12 schooling. Nevertheless, what is common is that through academic and extracurricular engagements they developed confidence, a “can-do” attitude, and a rejection of viewing failures as defining indicators of their ability or potential. Their self-awareness, their confidence, and their persistence in the face of failure are critical because they later function as counter-narratives in the women’s encounters with sexism and other forms of marginalization when in engineering and their project teams. Finally, there is some evidence to suggest that encouraging young girls to involve themselves in STEM and/or engineering may be counterproductive. By unintentionally “pushing” these young girls into engineering, rather than “allowing them to choose for themselves,” we may be encouraging the adoption of masculinist gendered roles associated with engineering.

Liang, G. J., & Evans, R., & Asadollahipajouh, M., & Kulesza,, S. E., & Evans, A. G. (2023, June), A Qualitative Study of Undergraduate Women in Engineering Project Teams Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland.

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