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Developing Leadership Attitudes and Skills in Working Adult Women Technical Graduate Students: Research Interview Results with Alumni

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

WIED Poster Session

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.460.1 - 22.460.19



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Paper Authors


Elaine R. Millam University of Saint Thomas

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Dr. Elaine Millam is a senior consultant, executive coach and educator with over 35 years of leadership experience in the private, public, and non-profit sectors,developing the leadership capacity to create high performing organizations and facilitating leadership teams to do likewise. She has earned a reputation for her leadership with female leaders, coaching them to live into their greatest potential. She uses an integrated model that balances the inside-out and outside-in approach to developing leaders. She has earned graduate degrees in Educational Psychology, Industrial Relations, and Organizational Leadership. She is a published author of several articles and two books.

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Ronald J. Bennett Univeristy of Saint Thomas

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Ronald J. Bennett, Ph.D. is Honeywell Fellow in Global Technology Management in the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas after having served as the Founding Dean. He holds a Ph.D. in Metallurgical Engineering and an M.B.A. With a background of more than 20 years in industry, Bennett teaches and publishes on diverse topics including materials engineering, technical innovation, technology transfer, leadership and engineering education. He is an EAC of ABET commissioner for SME.

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DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP ATTITUDES AND SKILLS IN WORKING ADULT WOMEN TECHNICAL GRADUATE STUDENTS: RESEARCH INTERVIEW RESULTS WITH ALUMNIEngineering leadership among women is increasing, but clearly the progress has been slow.Despite slow and steady progress, the percentage of women in leadership positions is still lessthan 12%. Leadership preparation is one of many factors. This paper discusses a series ofgraduate courses in leadership development for women engineers. It also documents progressbased on interviews with alumni. Remarkable success is being seen in the women thatunderstand and practice effective leadership, shaping a new possibility for other women towitness.At the ASEE annual conference in 2004, a paper was presented on the motivation for and thedesign of a series of courses that helped working adult graduate students assess their leadershipcapacity and skills, discussed the nature of the course and reported the results observed at thattime.Six additional years of results have been observed and documented. Longitudinal research,focusing on interviews with women and men alumni of the program, has been conducted andshow remarkable demonstrated growth in their leadership progress. Accelerated by intentionalself reflection and the creation of lifelong learning roadmaps, these alumni are now living theirplan, demonstrating their leadership, and stretching themselves to develop others. We had somehunches about overall outcomes, and planned to continue to monitor individual and collectiveoutcomes as the students moved forward in their learning pursuits. We proposed documentingthe students’ stories of real-time learning and leading to help everyone know just how thisprocess will affect life-long results. We have done just that, and now are able to compareprogress of men and women alumni. The women have shown tremendous potential to be leadersin their firms and have become role models for others.At the time of the initial survey, students were excited about their learning pursuits, engagingothers to support them and beginning to demonstrate their leadership talents as they learned,stretched and grew. They were feeling real strength and power in coming to better understandthemselves and taking charge of their own learning outcomes. With an additional six yearsexperience, the power of this approach in releasing the leaders within is becoming much moreclear and compelling. Alumni of this program are now convinced that this course has had aprofound effect on the way they view the world as an interconnected system, on their role to leadand make a difference, and as a result has changed the way they think and act. The implicationsof this research for retaining women in engineering careers are significant.During the past year the authors have also conducted surveys of engineering school deans todetermine their views on the need for leadership education for engineers, and on their currentcapacity to deliver this kind of education. While only 25% of the schools responding said theyoffered leadership education for their graduate students, fully 100% felt leadership education forengineers was important. This paper will provide additional evidence of the success of theapproach taken, and the need to expand to other adult practicing engineers to become leaders,and show a proven process for delivering graduate leadership education to engineers. 459 words

Millam, E. R., & Bennett, R. J. (2011, June), Developing Leadership Attitudes and Skills in Working Adult Women Technical Graduate Students: Research Interview Results with Alumni Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17741

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