June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Educational Research and Methods
This research paper investigates how students who self-identify as cisgender might hold different personalities and engineering attitudes than students who identify as either male or female and do not identify as cisgender. The word “cisgender” is used to describe an individual who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth and is often used to avoid the marked-unmarked dynamic in discussions of gender. Cisgender is still a rather new label, only entering into use in 1994. The recent introduction of this terminology makes cisgender self-identification a specific marker of individuals who have an nuanced understanding of gender beyond the widely accepted binary of only male or female. An individual might begin to utilize cisgender as an identifier through many pathways, including questioning their gender identity, interests in social justice, or desires to be an informed ally. We hypothesize significant differences may occur between students who voluntarily add another component to their gender identity when compared to students who are presumably cisgender but remain unmarked.
The research draws from a larger study conducted at four large public universities examining the non-normative attitudes of first-year engineering students and how these attitudes might affect their collegiate experience and the development of their engineering identity. Within the survey demographics section, students were asked to report their gender with as many options as they felt appropriate to describe themselves. Students were given the option to respond “male,” “female,” “cisgender,” “transgender,” “agender,” “genderqueer,” and/or “a gender not listed.”
Of the students surveyed, 2,697 identified themselves as male or female. Of this population, 55 students additionally identified themselves as cisgender. A Welch’s t-test revealed that factors relating to engineering identity were significantly different between cisgender students who self-identified and those who did not. Self-identified cisgender students possessed higher scores on factors measuring components of engineering identity, such as Physics Performance/Competence beliefs (p = 0.001, Cohen’s d = 0.412). These students were also rated as higher on Openness from the “Big 5” personality measures (p = 0.006, Cohen’s d = 0.403), and scored significantly lower on Conscientiousness from the “Big 5” personality measures (p = 0.028, Cohen’s d = 0.343).
These data highlight the differences between cisgender identified and non-identified students. Higher Openness results indicate that cisgender students are significantly more attentive of individuals’ inner feelings and may seek out more variety in their experiences than their non-cis-identified peers. Lower Conscientiousness scores reveal that cisgender students, on average, are less likely to conform to traditional cultural norms. Additionally, stronger scores relating to engineering identity indicate that cisgender-identified students feel that they belong in engineering. Together, these findings suggest that cisgender students possess traits and attitudes that could position them as ambassadors to or changemakers within engineering culture. Future research will work to understand these differences qualitatively to inform ways in which these individuals may serve as allies or “bridgers” for individuals within engineering who do not conform to gender and sexual orientation binaries.
Rohde, J. A., & Kirn, A., & Godwin, A. (2017, June), Engineering Allies: The Personalities of Cisgender Engineering Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28248
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