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Destination Unknown: Gender Differences In Attrition From Graduate Study In Engineering

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Conference

2010 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Mentoring Graduate Students, Diversity, and Assessment

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count

16

Page Numbers

15.374.1 - 15.374.16

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/16817

Download Count

34

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Paper Authors

biography

Lisa Frehill Self employed consultant

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Lisa Frehill is an evaluation consultant with more than a decade of experience evaluating educational programs. She earned her PhD at the University of Arizona in 1993, after which she was on the sociology faculty at New Mexico State University and then the PI for New Mexico State University’s ADVANCE: Institutional Transformation award. Current projects focus on: engineering workforce; gender and ethnic issues in access to STEM careers; and women’s international participation and collaboration in STEM.

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biography

Amanda Lain Freelance Consultant

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has an MA in Sociology from New Mexico State University. She served as the Research and Evaluation Assistant for the Bridge to the Doctorate Program. A part of the evaluation team since 2005, she has participated in numerous other evalautions.

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biography

Catherine Didion National Academy of Engineering

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Catherine Didion is a Senior Program Officer at the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Her portfolio is the Diversity of the Engineering Workforce program with a charge to provide staff leadership to the NA⁅s efforts to enhance the diversity of the engineering workforce at all levels including the diversity of those being prepared to enter the future workforce. In addition to her duties at NAE, in March of 2007 Didion became the Director of the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine. This is a standing committee with a new mandate to work as a focal point on gender across the three National Academies.

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

Destination Unknown: Gender Differences in Attrition from Graduate Study in Engineering Abstract: Women continue to be underrepresented in engineering at all levels of education and in the U.S. workforce. Our paper looks at outcomes and experiences of students within a particular, federally-funded program that is meant to increase the number of minority doctoral degree recipients in the sciences and engineering. The program provides students with a generous stipend, travel and research funding, special programming and support to their mentors. The program seeks to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who complete master’s degrees and then matriculate into doctoral degree programs. Thirty engineering students – 21 men and 9 women – moved through graduate school from 2003 through 2008. Women engineering students were three times as likely to leave graduate school without attaining a degree (33 percent compared to 9.5 percent), and women engineering graduates were less likely to matriculate into a PhD program than men (44 percent compared to 62 percent). Comparative case study analysis is used to describe the subtle ways that engineering graduate school at a particular large state university differs for students based on gender. Implications for future research are discussed.

Introduction Women continue to be underrepresented in engineering at all levels of education and in the U.S. workforce. For the past two decades, women have earned between 18-20 percent of undergraduate degrees in engineering, with approximately this same level of representation at the master’s and doctoral levels1. In the U.S. workforce, women account for just 13.5 percent of all engineers and architects1. Women’s underrepresentation, however, stems from lack of recruitment and enrollment in engineering programs rather than retention2,5. The rarity of women among engineering faculty is also cited as one of the many reasons for the continued underrepresentation of women in engineering schools8,10. Grounded in the framework that women seek role models that are like themselves, advocates of increasing women’s participation in the engineering professoriate claim that more female engineering professors will provide a context in which more women will feel comfortable pursing engineering degrees.

Our paper looks at outcomes and experiences of students within a particular, federally-funded program that is meant to increase the number of minority doctoral degree recipients in the sciences and engineering. The program provides students with a generous ($30,000 annually) stipend, travel and research funding, special programming and support to their mentors. The program seeks to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who complete master’s degrees and then matriculate into doctoral degree programs.

Four cohorts of students—49 students total, 30 males, 19 females—who moved through graduate school from 2003 through 2008 provide us with a window onto the graduate student experience. Of these 49 students, 30 were in engineering programs: 21 men and 9 women. Of these, three of the women (33.3 percent) and two men (9.5 percent) left graduate school and, despite comprehensive efforts, have been impossible to locate. Additionally, women engineering graduates were less likely into matriculate into a PhD program than men at 44 percent and 62 percent respectively.

Frehill, L., & Lain, A., & Didion, C. (2010, June), Destination Unknown: Gender Differences In Attrition From Graduate Study In Engineering Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16817

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