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A Systematized Literature Review of the Experiences of Women in the Engineering Workplace

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


H. Paige Brown Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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H. Paige Brown is an Engineering Education Ph.D. student and George Washington Carver Fellow at Purdue University. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Paige was employed with the US government. She began her career as an electrical engineer with Naval Air Systems Command. Her most current role was with the Food and Drug Administration where she performed the regulatory review of medical devices.

Outside of her professional career, Paige enjoys working with students and has developed and implemented K-12 STEM outreach programs and informal learning experiences. She has conducted engineering workshops, spoken on STEM panels, taught engineering at summer camps, and served as a tutor and mentor to K-12 and undergraduate students. Paige chartered a NSBE Jr. chapter, NSBE’s pre-college membership category for K-12 students. For her work with NSBE Jr., she was awarded the NSBE Golden Torch Award for Pre-College Initiative Director of the Year and the Black Engineer of the Year Community Service Award.

Paige has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a M.Ed. in Teaching and Learning.

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Allison Godwin Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Allison Godwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses what factors influence diverse students to choose engineering and stay in engineering through their careers and how different experiences within the practice and culture of engineering foster or hinder belongingness and identity development. Dr. Godwin graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education. Her research earned her a National Science Foundation CAREER Award focused on characterizing latent diversity, which includes diverse attitudes, mindsets, and approaches to learning, to understand engineering students’ identity development. She has won several awards for her research including the 2016 American Society of Engineering Education Educational Research and Methods Division Best Paper Award and the 2018 Benjamin J. Dasher Best Paper Award for the IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference. She has also been recognized for the synergy of research and teaching as an invited participant of the 2016 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium and the Purdue University 2018 recipient of School of Engineering Education Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the 2018 College of Engineering Exceptional Early Career Teaching Award.

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As researchers continue to investigate underrepresentation and retention of women in engineering, they often focus on undergraduate women. However, women are also departing from the engineering workforce and many attribute their decision to depart to the environment that is often characterized as masculine or exclusionary. Studies have shown that once beginning a career in engineering, 25% of women leave the field within five years.

To address the underrepresentation and retention of women in the engineering workforce, it is vital for engineering education researchers to understand the lived experiences of these women in the engineering workplace. This systematized literature review synthesizes research on the experiences of women within the non-academic, engineering workplace. This review examines female engineers from an international perspective and is not limited to female engineers in the United States. Using scholarly articles, this review seeks to answer the following questions: 1) What types of experiences do women in the engineering workforce encounter in the workplace? 2) How do these experiences influence women to leave or persist in the engineering workforce? In addition to answering the following questions, this review also seeks to identify any areas where further research is warranted. Using qualitative methods and analysis, three themes central to the experiences of women in the engineering workplace emerged. Women in engineering industry encounter experiences that include masculinized and non-supportive workplace cultures, various forms of discrimination and harassment, and the pressures associated with the day-to-day duties of their specific role. While some women can endure the exclusionary environments and inappropriate behavior, other women decide to depart from engineering industry altogether.

This review informs engineering industry of the experiences that may provoke women to leave the engineering workforce and thereby enables them to create workplace culture and environments that are inclusive of women–which will help broaden the participation of women in engineering.

Brown, H. P., & Godwin, A. (2019, June), A Systematized Literature Review of the Experiences of Women in the Engineering Workplace Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32010

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015