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Constructions of Gender in Three Campaigns to Recruit Women to Engineering: Is Outreach Combatting or Reinforcing Gender Inequality?

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division: Pre-college Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.399.1 - 26.399.14



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Paper Authors


Emily Gwen Blosser Louisiana State University

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Emily Blosser is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at Louisiana State University. She holds dual Master’s degrees in Public Affairs and Eastern European Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on the examination of processes through which gender inequalities are reproduced or challenged in various structural contexts. Specifically, she uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to research why stark gender disparities still exist in engineering in the United States, despite educational and cultural shifts that have occurred for women.

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In recent decades, women have made dramatic gains in terms of their educational outcomes. In the UnitedStates, girls now perform just as well as boys in math and women continue to outpace men in terms of theirgrades and graduation rates at institutions of higher education. Paradoxically, however, women still remainseverely underrepresented in engineering. For years, engineering has sought to incorporate more womeninto the profession through outreach and recruiting campaigns. In 2008, the National Academy ofEngineering published a report titled Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving PublicUnderstanding of Engineering, which called for engineering to recast itself as a profession engaged insocietal and community concerns in order to recruit more young people, particularly women andunderrepresented minorities. A number of social scientists have increasingly argued that if science,technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions highlight elements of the work that align with more“feminine” labeled interests and values, more women will enter such careers. In this paper, the authorexplores the ways in which messages in various engineering contexts are constructed to appeal to what areconsidered to be women’s natural preferences and aspirations. Drawing on sociological theories, the authorsuggests that while such strategies are certainly well intentioned, they may have unintended consequencesand could further perpetuate gender inequality within engineering. The findings raise important concernsand considerations for programs and institutions involved in efforts to recruit and retain more women intoengineering.

Blosser, E. G. (2015, June), Constructions of Gender in Three Campaigns to Recruit Women to Engineering: Is Outreach Combatting or Reinforcing Gender Inequality? Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23738

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