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Encouragers And Discouragers For Domestic And International Women In Doctoral Programs In Engineering And Computer Science

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

An International Perspective

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.607.1 - 12.607.14



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Paper Authors


Mary Anderson-Rowland Arizona State University

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MARY R. ANDERSON-ROWLAND, PhD, is the PI of three academic scholarship programs and a program for transfer students. An Associate Professor in Industrial Engineering at Arizona State University, she was the Associate Dean of Student Affairs in the Fulton School of Engineering at ASU from 1993-2004. She received the ASEE Minorities in Engineering Award 2006, the SHPE Educator of the Year 2005 and won the National Engineering Award in 2003, the highest honor given by the AAAES. In 2002 she was named the Distinguished Engineering Educator by the Society of Women Engineers. A SWE and ASEE Fellow, she is the Chair of PIC IV and a frequent speaker on career opportunities in engineering, especially for women and minority students. She has more than 150 publications, mostly on the recruitment and retention of students in engineering, especially women and underrepresented minority students.

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Bianca Bernstein Arizona State University


Nancy Felipe Russo Arizona State University

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NANCY FELIPE RUSSO, PhD., is a Regents Professor of Psychology and Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University. Before that for nine years she was founder and director of the Women's Programs Office of the American Psychological Association (APA), where she was involved in a variety of research and policy-related activities related to women's health, education, and career development. Author or editor of more than 200 publications related to women and women's issues, Russo is the former editor of The Psychology of Women Quarterly. A Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the New York Academy of Sciences, Russo has been recognized by APA's Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs for contributions to ethnic minority issues and is the recipient of the American Psychological Association's Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest.

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

Encouragers and Discouragers for Domestic and International Women in Doctoral Programs in Engineering and Computer Science

Mary R. Anderson-Rowland, Bianca L. Bernstein, and Nancy Felipe Russo Arizona State University

Abstract We are engaged in a large NSF-funded study (#0634519) that seeks to understand and to address the problems of retention for women in doctoral programs in engineering and the physical sciences from the student viewpoint. We examine the women’s experiences through the everyday encouragers and discouragers that they encounter in these programs. We are especially interested in the small discouragers that occur daily and accumulate to the point that a woman decides that pursuing the doctoral degree is no longer worth it.

A unique component of the current research program is our attention to the special circumstances that apply to women in engineering and the physical sciences where their numbers are already low and the enrollment of international students is substantial. In addition to reviewing national findings, we have used focus groups at Arizona State University to enrich our understanding of the everyday experience of domestic women and international women in the target programs.

This paper highlights issues that have emerged from the focus group discussions of domestic and international doctoral women in engineering and computer science. Our aim is to better understand the role of national and cultural influences on what women experience and how they respond. We describe some of the commonalities and differences between domestic and international women with respect to their perceptions of everyday encouragers and discouragers and how they cope with them. In a broader context, we consider how these experiences may contribute to their intentions to complete their doctoral programs. We also discuss possible interventions and support that can be given to help retain discouraged female doctoral students who consider leaving their programs. Finally, we suggest areas for additional research to help us better understand both the domestic and the international woman doctoral student in engineering and computer science.

I. Introduction

The problem of attrition from doctoral programs is receiving new attention. It is estimated that only 5 out of 10 doctoral students across all fields complete their degrees, and that the completion rate for women is lower than that of men. Preliminary estimates suggest that the attrition of women from some doctoral programs in engineering and the hard sciences may be twice that of men. Low numbers of women entering doctoral programs in these fields combined with high attrition results in an even lower number of doctorates actually earned each year by women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Anderson-Rowland, M., & Bernstein, B., & Felipe Russo, N. (2007, June), Encouragers And Discouragers For Domestic And International Women In Doctoral Programs In Engineering And Computer Science Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2786

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