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Are There Gender Differences in how Male and Female Interns and Their Mentors Rate Workforce Skills in STEM Fields?

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Undergraduate Student Issues: Culture

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.206.1 - 23.206.14



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Paper Authors


Thomas E. Pinelli NASA Langley Research Center

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Thomas E. Pinelli

Dr. Pinelli is the University Affairs Officer at the Langley Research Center (Hampton, VA). He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington in Information Science. He is a Fellow of the Society of Technical Communication and is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. His research focus is scientific and technical communications, he has written extensively on the information-seeking behavior of engineers (as distinct from scientists), and he has authored over 200 publications on these and related topics

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Cathy W. Hall East Carolina University

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Cathy Hall is a professor in the Department of Psychology at East Carolina University. She holds a Bachelor's in Psychology from Emory University, and a MEd and PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Georgia. Her expertise includes psychological assessments, research design and methodology, and data analysis. Her research interests include emotional intelligence, metacognition, resilience, and self-regulation.

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Kimberly Marie Brush NASA Langley Research Center

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Kimberly Brush is a Pathways Student in the Office of Education at the NASA Langley Research Center. She is completing her PhD in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership with a focus on Higher Education Administration at the College of William and Mary. Her dissertation is focused on the preferences of women in an engineering internship as compared to those of men, specifically focusing on the elements and skills that support women's persistence into an engineering field.

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Jeannine B. Perry Continental Research Associates, Inc.

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Jeannine Perry joined Continental Research in 1984. As Sr. Project Director, she meets with each client to discuss their needs and outline the research project goals. She is then responsible for planning and monitoring all phases of the study.

Jeannine works closely with the research team to ensure that each step is performed to exact specifications. She conducts the interviewer briefing session at the beginning of each study and electronically monitors a portion of the fieldwork. After the completion of the data collection, she receives an anecdotal report from the Field Director (choosing results to highlight in the final report). Jeannine oversees the statistical analyses, writes the text portion of most reports, supervises the report preparation, and is in regular contact with her clients.

Jeannine attended Old Dominion University where she completed a Bachelors degree in Business Management. Prior to joining Continental Research, she was with Fuerste and Associates in Dubuque, Iowa. A resident of Virginia Beach, Jeannine has been involved with the local American Marketing Association, taught Junior Achievement middle school Economics, worked with the Colonial Coast Girl Scouts, and manages a handbell choir. She is an active volunteer in her church along with several civic and charitable organizations.

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[Type text]Are There Gender Differences in how Male and Female Interns and Their Mentors Rate Workforce Skills in STEM Fields? In addition to expertise in a student’s chosen major, it is reasonable for business andindustry to expect a new graduate to bring knowledge/skills sets reflective of a higher educationdegree to the workforce1,2,3. Bok 1,4 notes certain knowledge/skills should be expected of anycollege graduate regardless of major. These include: oral and written communication skills,being able to identify and define problems clearly, understand arguments/reasoning on all sidesof an issue, to identify as many plausible solutions as possible, and exercise good judgment inchoosing the best of alternatives. These are areas reflective of important skills necessary notonly in today’s workforce but in the workforce of tomorrow 1,3,4. These areas are also frequentlycited by companies as weaknesses of new college hires2. There is a need to help ensure studentsare given opportunities to understand the importance of and develop skills in these areas5,6,7. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields have, experienceddifficulty attracting and retaining students in their majors8,9. While many disciplines attractstudents into their major from other areas, disciplines such as engineering have a very low rate ofmigration from other majors and at the same time lose a high proportion of their enteringstudents to other disciplines8. This has been especially problematic for women in STEM fieldsand especially for women in engineering10. If we are to meet the workforce needs of tomorrow,we need to attract and retain male and female STEM majors. The purpose of the current study was twofold. First, the current study examined mentorsand student interns’ ratings of their preparedness in knowledge/skill sets. How do mentors inindustry rate their student interns’ workforce preparedness, and what are the perceptions ofinterns on their own preparedness in regard to knowledge/skill sets? Next, the study examinedgender differences. Are there significant gender differences in how the knowledge/skill sets arerated by male and female interns and their mentors? Participants in this study were 180 student interns (107 men, 63 women, and 10 notindicated) and their mentors participating in the 2012, 10-week ____ summer internship programin _____. Interns were chosen from around the country based upon their applications andmentoring opportunities to participate in a summer program focusing on a range of specialtyareas. While the primary focus of LARSS is engineering, other areas in science and technologyare also open to select interns. Of those participating in the internship 125 were Caucasian, 14African American, 2 Native American, 11 Asian, 8 Hispanic/Latino, 3 Native Hawaiian/PacificIslander, 4 indicated other and 13 did not specify race/ethnicity. Workplace skills assessed by mentors and students included: written communication,oral communication; technical skills, critical thinking/ problem solving; collaboration/workingwith others; flexibility/adaptability; judgment/decision making; time management;creativity/innovation;; analytical thinking; computational skills; computer skills; and technicalskills. These workplace skills are representative of key areas cited as critical for US students tobe competitive in the world marketplace 1,2,3,4.[Type text] References 1 Bok, D. Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should be Learning More. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. 2 Casner-Lotto, J.; Brenner, M. W. Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U. S. Workforce. 2007. The Conference Board, Inc., the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resources Management. 3 National Association of College and Employers. NACE Job Outlook 2011, Bethlehem, PA: NACE, 2010. 4 Bok, D. Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. 5 Crouch, C.; Mazur, E. Peer Instruction: Ten Years of Experience and Results. American Journal of Physics, 2001, 69, 970-977. 6 National Survey of Student Engagement.. NSSE 2004. Bloomington, IN: NSSE, 2007 7 Treisman, U. Studying Students Studying Calculus: A Look at the Lives of Minority Mathematics Students in College. The College Mathematics Journal, 1992, 23, 362-372. 8 Ohland, M.W.; Sheppard, S.D.; Lichtensteien, G.; Eris, O.; Chachra, D.; Layton, R. Persistence, Engagement, and Migration in Engineering Programs. Journal of Engineering Education, July 2008, 259-278. 9 Morton, J. Engineering Skills: The Threat from China and India? European Engineers Forum, Hanover, England, April, 2007. 10 Fouad, N. A.; Singh, R. Stemming the Tide: Why Women Leave Engineering. Milwaukee, WI: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2011.

Pinelli, T. E., & Hall, C. W., & Brush, K. M., & Perry, J. B. (2013, June), Are There Gender Differences in how Male and Female Interns and Their Mentors Rate Workforce Skills in STEM Fields? Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19220

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