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An Analysis of Gendered Outreach Messages on the Engineer Girl Website: How Female Engineers Promote Engineering to Young Women

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Critical Conversations on Being Valued

Tagged Divisions

Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education

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Emily Gwen Blosser University of Louisiana at Lafayette

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Dr. Emily Blosser is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She has a Bachelor of Arts in German from the University of Texas and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a Master of Arts in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Louisiana State University. She is interested in collaborative research between engineering education scholars and social scientists that focuses on the processes through which inequalities are enacted, reproduced, and/or challenged in various educational contexts.

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Women’s underrepresentation in engineering in the United States has been an ongoing area of interest to engineering educators and administrators. Despite the fact that women now earn more undergraduate degrees than men, and girls now perform as well as boys in math and science, young women make up approximately 20 percent of undergraduate engineering majors. In light of this, efforts have been made to attract more women to engineering. One substantial obstacle engineering grapples with, is the fact that it is viewed by young women as a traditionally masculine occupation that is chilly and inhospitable. Little research has considered how outreach campaigns address such issues in order to persuade women to pursue the profession.

In this paper, I perform a content analysis of the National Academy of Engineering’s website, EngineerGirl. The website is aimed at bringing national attention to opportunities that engineering represents for girls and women. Using constructivist grounded theory, I examine interviews on the website with practicing female engineers. My analysis asks how they discuss the gendered occupational barriers they encounter, as well as the advice they provide to aspiring young women.

Drawing on theoretical frameworks that emphasize the role of organizational messages that promote “gendering practices,” I argue that the interviews present tensions and contradictions for prospective female engineers. The interviews shift images of engineering in positive ways by emphasizing the profession's broad and inclusive nature. At the same time, they demonstrate persistent entrenched masculine biases and promote individual coping strategies women can adopt to overcome them. In sum, I consider the need for structural changes in engineering culture, as well as a rethinking of how engineers can formulate messages to encourage young women to the field.

Blosser, E. G. (2021, July), An Analysis of Gendered Outreach Messages on the Engineer Girl Website: How Female Engineers Promote Engineering to Young Women Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36518

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