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A Systematic Literature Review of the Impact of Undergraduate Work Experiences on Women in Engineering

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Madison E. Andrews University of Texas, Austin Orcid 16x16

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Madison E. Andrews is a STEM Education doctoral student and Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University in 2017.

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Numerous studies have examined the reasons that students leave engineering pathways, identifying a strong sense of self-efficacy as a key indicator of students’ retention and persistence. Research has hypothesized that mastery experiences, such as cooperative education, typically develop self-efficacy, but the impacts may vary between genders (Mamaril & Royal, 2008). The disproportionate representation of women at all points along the engineering pathway offers a strong motivation to study the full extent of how cooperative education and internship experiences differ between genders and how those differences manifest themselves in student retention and persistence.

To better understand these differences, a systematic literature review was used to identify and examine all relevant existing knowledge of the effects of undergraduate work experiences on key factors in student retention. This method allows for a holistic perspective by sourcing information from multiple sources and primary studies. Inclusion criteria are defined as follows: (1) examines participants of an undergraduate engineering program who are employed full-time before obtaining their degree; (2) presents empirical research or evaluates results of affective student outcomes; (3) disaggregates data by gender; (4) published as a report, article, conference paper, or dissertation in English since 1990. The search yielded 13 results.

Examining these results provides insight into students’ experiences. Most studies examined some measure of interest or efficacy, noting benefits from working as a student. The quantitative studies measured a range of different outcomes, but almost never found statistically significant relationships by gender. However, qualitative studies revealed that the type of and perceived importance of interpersonal relationships in the workplace are drastically different between genders. Most students valued professional role models, but women perceived greater significance in these mentors. Women also consistently reported mistreatment and blocked access in the workplace; these experiences contributed to feelings of self-doubt and often caused women to question their future in engineering.

Andrews, M. E. (2018, June), A Systematic Literature Review of the Impact of Undergraduate Work Experiences on Women in Engineering Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29736

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