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Collaborative Research: Gender Diversity, Identity, and EWB-USA

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.321.1 - 25.321.13



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Paper Authors


Amy Javernick-Will University of Colorado, Boulder

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Amy Javernick-Will is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering Department. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and has focused her research efforts on knowledge transfer in global organizations, global projects, and increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in engineering.

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Jessica Kaminsky University of Colorado, Boulder

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Cathy Leslie P.E. Engineers Without Borders - USA


Kaitlin Litchfield University of Colorado, Boulder

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Kaitlin Litchfield is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department focusing in engineering education.

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Collaborative Research: Gender Diversity, Identity, and EWB- USAThis recently initiated research investigates the motivations driving members of the serviceorganization Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) in the theoretical context of identityand social cognitive theory. As a rare example of a professional engineering organization with aroughly balanced gender ratio among its membership, EWB-USA provides a strategic researchsite for unpacking gendered motivations and identity formations in engineering. This researchwill consider an extended STEM pipeline that includes both undergraduates and professionals,recognizing the importance of not only recruiting but also retaining diverse genders in STEM.Due to the early phase of research, this poster does not present any results but rather describesthe project methodology and expected results.Females are underrepresented in STEM fields. This is true for student and professional cohorts.Past research suggests that recruitment, not retention, is the problem for females in universityengineering programs. In contrast to this, female engineering professionals experience higherattrition rates than do their male counterparts. This dual problem of recruitment and retentionmeans that capable female engineers leave or never enter the profession, disproportionatelycontributing to the shortage of engineers.Social cognitive theory proposes that self-efficacy and expected outcomes form the basis forprofessional identity and motivation. This research will test social cognitive theory as aframework for attracting diverse groups to engineering. Specifically, it proposes thatparticipation in EWB-USA changes the expected outcomes of engineering—from Dilbert to theengineer of 2020. In addition, it provides career scaffolding that helps members navigatecareers. Both of these aspects are hypothesized to be particularly attractive and beneficial tofemales, which in turn is hypothesized to explain the gender ratios observed in the EWB-USAmembership.This project proposes a multi-method approach. The first research phase is primarily qualitativeand consists of data collection through semi-structured focus groups and interviews. We willconduct 28 interviews of female and male students and professionals involved with EWB-USA.These interviews will contain open-ended questions aimed at understanding the motivations forjoining EWB, what they gain from their membership in the organization, what they believe to belacking in their education, and how their membership has changed them. 16 focus groups willbe held with female, male, and mixed gender groups, students and professional groups, and EWBand non-EWB groups. The participants in these focus groups will be asked many of the samequestions and will be asked to vote on the most important and least important aspects of what thegroup discussed. Participants in both the interviews and focus groups will be asked to write adescription of an EWB member, engineer, and themselves to determine perceptions ofengineering identity and motivation, and differences in these generalizations for the variouscohorts. This data will be transcribed and coded in QSR NVivo to analyze emergent trends. Inthe second phase of the research, this qualitative data will be used as the foundation for aquantitative survey that will be distributed to the memberships of EWB-USA, the Society ofWomen Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Society ofMechanical Engineers.This research hypothesizes that the expected outcomes of engineering will vary among thetargeted research cohorts, and that EWB-USA members will report important career scaffoldingexperiences due to EWB-USA participation. This new knowledge will be of use in the design ofevidence-based university curriculum and industry programs to increase the participation offemales in engineering.

Javernick-Will, A., & Kaminsky, J., & Leslie, C., & Litchfield, K. (2012, June), Collaborative Research: Gender Diversity, Identity, and EWB-USA Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21079

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