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Can A Woman In Technology Freshman Seminar Change Student Attitudes? A Pilot Study

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Early College Retention Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.290.1 - 10.290.12



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Paper Authors

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Susan Miller

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Mara Wasburn

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

Can a Women in Technology Freshman Seminar Change Student Attitudes? A Pilot Study

Mara H. Wasburn, Susan G. Miller Purdue University

Abstract Increasingly, companies and corporations are seeking to diversify those areas of their workforce that are predominantly male. Many of those positions are highly technical. However, despite abundant career opportunities, women are not preparing themselves for technology-related careers that would fill these positions. In 2002, a partnership was developed between the School of Technology at Purdue University and John Deere to create a retention vehicle for beginning women students in the School. In this paper, we will present an overview of the freshman seminar Women in Technology: Exploring the Possibilities, developed as the result of this partnership. We will discuss the results of a survey of students’ attitudes and beliefs about women in technology-related disciplines, administered before and after each semester of the seminar; compare the preliminary results from those surveys to the same survey administered to a control group; and offer recommendations for strategies aimed at retaining women students in technology and engineering.

Introduction A variety of programs have succeeded in attracting more women into the fields of science, engineering, and technology over the past two decades. Many of these women are now in highly visible positions. However, although women constitute 46 percent of the labor force, less than a quarter of the scientists and engineers in this country are women.1 A July 2001 report released by The National Council for Research on Women finds that much of the progress that women have made in these areas has stalled or eroded. The report underscores the increasing need for a scientifically and technologically literate workforce as we enter the new millennium. One year earlier, the Morella Commission, charged with developing strategies to attract more women and minorities into science, engineering, and technology, reported to the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives that significant barriers to attaining that goal are present from elementary school through college and beyond.2 Women and girls will comprise half of the available science, engineering and technology talent pool. Therefore, it becomes imperative not only to attract but also to retain women and girls in these disciplines.

As early as elementary and middle school, male/female attitudes toward science and technology begin to differ. This continues on into high school during the critical period when girls begin to develop an understanding of their socially defined gender roles.3,4,5,6 They have some reservations about the seemingly male “computer culture” as they watch boys utilizing computers for violent computer games and what they see as technology for its own sake.3 There is little software that appeals to them. Therefore, the tendency of boys to monopolize the computers is not being vigorously challenged.7 As a result, girls do not take advantage of after school computer clubs or enroll in higher-level computer classes.8

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Miller, S., & Wasburn, M. (2005, June), Can A Woman In Technology Freshman Seminar Change Student Attitudes? A Pilot Study Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15294

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