Asee peer logo

Electronic Mentoring: Supporting Women Engineering And Science Students In The Crucial Early Years Of College

Download Paper |


2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.412.1 - 6.412.10

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

William S. Carlsen

author page

Christine M. Cunningham

author page

Carol B. Muller

author page

Peg Boyle Single

Download Paper |

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

Session 2793

Electronic Mentoring: Supporting Women Engineering and Science Students in the Crucial Early Years of College

Peg Boyle Single, Carol B. Muller, William S. Carlsen, Christine M. Cunningham MentorNet/MentorNet/Pennsylvania State University/Cornell University

MentorNet is using electronic communications to address a persistent problem in engineering education: the underrepresentation of women. This paper in particular will focus on MentorNet’s efforts to support women engineering, science, math, and technology students during the crucial first year of undergraduate education.

In this paper, we review the current situation of women students in engineering, identifying barriers and obstacles to their persistence in engineering majors. Then we will briefly explore why the first year of undergraduate education is a particularly important time for intervention programs for women in engineering. Next, we introduce MentorNet (, the Electronic Industrial Mentoring Network for Women in Engineering and Science, a large-scale project to support women studying engineering and related sciences. Finally, we present quantitative and qualitative results of year-end program evaluations focusing on both overall program results, and particularly on, the experiences of the first year undergraduate students. The qualitative aspects of the evaluation help bring richness and depth to our understanding of the benefits that first year students accrue from participating in MentorNet.

I. Women Students in Engineering and Early Experiences

Engineering has stubbornly remained a field where women continue to be severely underrepresented. Engineering is the career aspiration that still shows the greatest difference between the number of men and women as they begin their undergraduate years.1 Nation-wide data show that women earned just 18.6% of undergraduate engineering degrees, 20.3 % of masters engineering degrees, and 12.3% of engineering doctoral degrees in 1998.2

Consistently, research shows that this discrepancy is not due to a lack of motivation, ability, or academic preparation of women students.3,4 Instead, it seems that environmental factors and societal factors are largely responsible for deterring women from entering or persisting in engineering. Competitive and unwelcoming classroom environments hinder women from persisting in their pursuit of engineering degrees5,6,7,8. Because of the propensity of male dominated stereotypes and examples in society and the college classroom, women in engineering may question their ability or commitment more than their male counterparts9. Also, two highly important predictors of academic persistence and success -- mentoring and research experiences - - may be less readily available to women students10.

Formalized women in engineering programs, which often include mentoring components, have been become an important part of supporting and encouraging women students in engineering11.

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Carlsen, W. S., & Cunningham, C. M., & Muller, C. B., & Single, P. B. (2001, June), Electronic Mentoring: Supporting Women Engineering And Science Students In The Crucial Early Years Of College Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2001 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015