Asee peer logo

Attracting And Retaining Females In Engineering Programs: Using An Stse Approach

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

The Impact of Curriculum on the Retention of Women Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.295.1 - 12.295.29



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Lisa Romkey University of Toronto

visit author page

Lisa Romkey is the Lecturer, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning with the Division of Engineering Science at the University of Toronto. In this position, Lisa plays a central role in the continuous improvement of the design and delivery of a dynamic and complex curriculum, while facilitating the development and implementation of teaching and learning initiatives and innovations. Lisa is cross-appointed with the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at OISE/UT (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto). Lisa holds a Masters in Curriculum Studies and is currently pursuing a PhD in higher education at OISE/UT. Research interests include teaching & learning in higher education, engineering education, first year experience, STSE in higher education and gender issues in science and engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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


There are great strides to be made in the recruitment of women to engineering programs and careers. While women typically make up more than 50% of individuals studying life science at most universities and colleges across North America, we see far fewer women in engineering programs than we do males. There is a considerable body of research that suggests ways to improve this, including mentorship programs, a change in the nature of the engineering workplace to accommodate family needs, and creating a more collaborative and less competitive atmosphere in both the academic and industry sides of engineering.

Much of the literature on gender studies in science, technology and engineering suggests females enjoy and connect with these fields when they are placed within a human, social or environmental context. This paper demonstrates the why and how of this relationship, drawing ideas from gender roles and gender socialization. This paper looks at how moral development may impact a woman’s choice to pursue a career in the physical sciences, technology, engineering or math. In particular, the paper draws from Gilligan’s theories on females and the care-orientation of moral development, and how her theories demonstrate a need for a STSE (Science, Technology, Society and the Environment) orientation in high school, college and university curriculum.

The extensive literature review in this paper is supplemented by qualitative data from 10 semi-structured interviews with female engineering students and recent female engineering graduates from a large engineering school in Canada. The subjects were interviewed individually, and came from a diverse set of academic and cultural backgrounds, engineering disciplines, interests and aspirations. The interviews were conducted in-person or via telephone, and were 30-45 minutes in duration. The interviews were structured around the following list of questions, however, the individuals interviewed were encouraged to share any thoughts on their experience, and some themes developed, and were encouraged, on an individual basis.

• Why did you decide to pursue engineering? Do you feel that females have different reasons than males for pursuing engineering? • What were your first experiences with science and engineering as a youth? Which sciences were you most exposed to? • What were your most positive experiences in science and engineering prior to starting university? • Did you have any hesitation about pursuing engineering as a female? • What have been your most positive experiences, academically, as an engineering student? • What do you plan to do with your engineering degree? Do you think females have different goals than males? • Female numbers in engineering remain relatively low, and have recently been on the decline in Canada. Why do you think this is the case? How can we attract more women to the field of engineering? • Do you think there are stereotypes about engineering, or about women, that detract women from pursuing engineering? • Do you think the experience as a student is different for males and females? • If you could change something about your education as an engineer, what would it be?

Romkey, L. (2007, June), Attracting And Retaining Females In Engineering Programs: Using An Stse Approach Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2713

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: © 2007 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