July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Women in Engineering
Women and other minoritized groups experience an unwelcoming environment in higher education     . This is particularly acute in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, where students have reported experiencing both explicit and subtle biased behaviors by faculty, administrators and fellow students  . The behaviors include stereotypical comments about women and other minoritized students’ abilities, micro-aggressions, sexist humor, etc. Studies have shown that such behavior can lead to negative cognitive effects which in turn can affect student retention and graduation rates . The aim of this paper is to document the progression and results of efforts undertaken at X university to make the climate more welcoming for minoritized students in the College of Engineering (COE) by offering a course that encourages ally development. Ally development involves training people in the dominant social group and helping them understand the inequities placed on those in the minority  . This is especially crucial to have in engineering, where on average, the percent of women receiving a bachelor’s degree in the United States is 20.9 percent. Similarly the percent of Hispanic students receiving a bachelor’s degree in the United States is 11.4%, Black/African American students 4.2%, Native American .3%, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander .2% . The ally development, based on the framework created by Broido  hypothesizes that engaging students from the dominant group as allies to promote equity in engineering is an innovative strategy for creating a positive climate for minoritized students – and, in turn, ALL students, a factor that influences their retention and graduation rates  . The initiative started as an informal cohort in 2015-2016 – training students who identify as men to be allies for other students. This cohort met weekly to learn about power, privilege, bias, and microaggressions. The participants then developed and implemented outreach activities in the university community. Taking the positive aspects of the cohort, a semester-long course was developed and offered every semester for undergraduate men students around the cohort concepts – with a primary focus on gender equity. Shortly thereafter a complementary class for students who identify as women was developed with similar topics as well as additions including confidence and empowerment. In Autumn 2018 the men and women’s courses were rebranded as “Inclusive Leadership” courses with topics including personal brand, strengths, values, identity, power, privilege, bias, and microaggressions. The focus extended beyond gender to include race, sexual orientation, physical ability, and other categories of social identity. Gender non-binary students had the opportunity to choose between either of the two courses. In Autumn 2019, the courses’ enrolled students were limited to new first year engineering students who self-selected to take part in a pilot “Inclusive Leadership Cohort”. Students in this cohort took the Inclusive Leadership course concurrently with the first two required engineering courses in their first two semesters at X university. Due to COVID, in Autumn 2020, the courses went back to being open to all undergraduate engineering students. Finally, for the Spring of 2021, a single course offered to all genders will be offered for the first time. This paper documents the perceived impact on the students who took the courses, lessons learned in each stage of the initiative, and initial progress on the first co-ed Inclusive Leadership course to be offered in Spring 2021.
Abrams, L., & Jayakumar, A., & Sheppard, L., & Kramer, A., & Calbert, T. M. (2021, July), Empowering Engineering Students as Allies Through Dedicated Classroom Instruction Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37027
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