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A Theoretical Basis For Recruitment And Retention Interventions For Women In Engineering

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.44.1 - 1.44.7



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Stephanie L. Blaisdell

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Catherine R. Cosgrove

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1692

A Theoretical Basis for Recruitment and Retention Interventions for Women in Engineering

Stephanie Blaisdell, Catherine R. Cosgrove

Arizona State University

While women have dramatically increased their representation in many professions over the past decades, they continue to be underrepresented in engineenngl. LeBuffe, in her annual survey of engineering enrollments and degrees for the Engineering Workforee Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies, found that roughly 16’ZO of all bachelor degnxs in engineering were awarded to women in 19932. In 1993, women received only 9% of the doctoral degrees in engineering3. In the first quarter of 1994 there were 127,000 women employed as engineers, which was roughly 7% of the engineering work force4. The future does not seem much brighter, either. In 1990, senior males in public high schools were more than three times as likely to choose a career in science, math or engineering than women5. In January, 1994, only 2.9% of all women entering college planned to major in engineering, compared to 11.8% of men6.

In an effort to increase the number of women in engineering, numerous programs have been put into place. However, few of these programs take advantage of the literature provided by counseling psychology and other fields that study career developmen~ These theories can inform interventions designed to recruit or retain women in engineering. One such theory that has been empirically supported to explain why women tend not to enter non-traditional fields such as engineering is Social Cognitive, or Self-efficacy, theory.

Bandura7 defines self-efficacy as one’s belief about how well she or he can perform a given task or behavior. One builds self-efficacy through four sources of information: Past performance accomplishments, vicarious learning (seeing others model the behavior), encouragement and supporg and physiological arousal (such as Iowemd anxiety)8. Self-efficacy expectations m viewed as mediators of behavior and behavior change. The level of self-efficacy expectations, the degree of difficulty of the tasks the individual feels capable of attempting, influences the kinds of behaviors attempted and avoided. In addition to self-efficacy expectations, an individual also holds an outcome expectation, a belief about what consequences performing that task or behavior will have. Pereeived outcome expectancies need to be sufficiently positive to motivate an individual to perform a given behavior. For example, a woman might have high self-efficacy for becoming an engineer, but sees the uphill struggle as too big an effort for the perceived pay-off, so she deeides to go into

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Blaisdell, S. L., & Cosgrove, C. R. (1996, June), A Theoretical Basis For Recruitment And Retention Interventions For Women In Engineering Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6348

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