Morgantown, West Virginia
March 27, 2020
March 27, 2020
May 20, 2020
Globally, gender gap has persisted over the years in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Among the STEM fields, engineering continues to have one of the highest rates of attrition (40%). Reasons that have been suggested for low female graduation rates include, lack of female engineering role models, misconceptions of what it is like to be an engineer, and having fewer technical problem-solving opportunities through K-12 compared to men. Lack of confidence is another critical issue that results in women engineering students switching majors. Therefore, designing and developing policies to tap into the potential of women and their contribution in this vital sector, requires understanding of how gender is related to participation, and success. Historically, in the development field, societies were viewed from a deficit perspective, as opposed to strength. This neo colonial mentality has inhibited reciprocal learning. Societies were classified as developed, under-developed, and least developed; or first world, second world, and third world. There is need to rethink categorizing nation states, in value-laden terms. With this backdrop, authors of this research also espouse value free terms identified terms in the literature: Global North or Global South. Some of the nations in the Global South, such as India, Turkey, and Singapore, have achieved a greater number of women in the STEM fields. Having a paradigm shift in contemporary perspectives that classifies societies as “First and Third World” may provide opportunities to observe and learn from nations of the global south, where there is a higher percentage of women in engineering. This background motivated the authors to investigate the participation of women in engineering, to study facilitators and barriers for women entering the field of engineering and its implications for education. In this regard, the main research questions of this study are ● What are the main reasons women are interested in engineering? ● What are some barriers to women, developing an interest in engineering? ● How can more young women be encouraged to develop an interest in engineering before enrolling in college? and • What are the issues that are critical to recruitment and retention of women in engineering and how to develop strategies to overcome them?
To answer these questions, a survey was designed and administered to undergraduate students in engineering at an university in the southern United States. Purposive sampling was utilized to collect information on why students were interested in engineering and the barriers, the students and their friends encountered. As an extension to this study, the authors will use the survey results, in identifying initiatives to attract and increase the number of local women high school students wanting to pursue engineering as a career, and will provide pointers to develop intervention strategies that will help retain them. The authors anticipate that the information obtained through this descriptive study would guide educators and researchers in attracting middle and high school girls to prepare for engineering as a major in college.
Ramachandran, B., & Ramanathan, C., & Khabou, M. (2020, March), Advancement of Women in Engineering: Past, Present and Future Paper presented at 2020 ASEE North Central Section conference, Morgantown, West Virginia. https://peer.asee.org/35723
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