June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
New Engineering Educators
15.310.1 - 15.310.6
Confronting the Unique Challenges Faced by New Female Faculty Abstract
As a first year female faculty member joining an all male faculty group, many unique challenges present themselves. These challenges include the usual of a new faculty member such as time management, balancing career and family, adjusting to a new environment, and gaining the respect of students and colleagues. However, as a minority faculty member, additional challenges include lack of role models, fitting in, and gaining the respect of male students. These challenges will be further outlined in the full paper.
This paper explores ways to confront these challenges. A strong support system, both professionally and personally, is essential. This support system comes in many forms, including community and university resources. A faculty mentorship program within the university has been very valuable to junior faculty. Being a mentor to female students has also been a way to overcome these challenges. The teacher becomes the student when encouraging young women to stick with engineering, and it is a very empowering experience. In the full paper, ways to overcome the challenges discussed will be explored in greater detail.
It comes as no surprise that the number of female faculty members in engineering is quite low. In 2006, a reported 10.8% of tenure and tenure-tracked engineering faculty were female and 5% of full professors of engineering were female1. While these percentages are significantly larger than those of 1985 (2.1% and 1% respectively), they still remain low when compared with other fields. The National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2007 that 53.7% of faculty were female, leaving engineering behind at its 10.8%2. Because of this underrepresentation, most engineering departments are predominately male.
New faculty members of any gender will face many challenges their first year. These challenges include time management, balancing career and family, adjusting to a new environment, and gaining the respect of students and colleagues. As reported by Mary Feng et al.3, one study showed that women faculty were more likely to struggle with balancing career and family than their male colleagues. This is true for most fields, not just female engineering faculty. Any mother who has left her child to go to work can attest to that aspect. The additional challenge for females pursuing tenure is in the timing4. Workloads and expectations are high when faculty members first begin their careers and this often coincides with the time most women are ready to start a family. This added pressure can be extremely overwhelming and having good role models to support women through this time is crucial to their success.
There are some unique challenges that female faculty face in addition to their male counterparts, including a lack of role models, fitting in, and gaining the respect of male students. In this paper I will present some ways that I have faced these challenges over the last year. Some of my efforts have been rewarding while others did not work out so well. I will also present future ideas of how to continue battling these challenges.
Howe, C. (2010, June), Confronting The Unique Challenges Faced By New Female Faculty Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16514
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