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Engineering Change For Women: The Role Of Curricular And Instructional Change

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Undergraduate Retention Activities

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.538.1 - 10.538.13



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Paper Authors

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Edward Evans

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Francis Broadway

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Sandra Spickard Prettyman

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Helen Qammar

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

Engineering Change for Women in Engineering: The Role of Curricular and Instructional Change Sandra Spickard Prettyman, Helen Qammar, Edward Evans, and Francis Broadway University of Akron, Akron Ohio 44325

Introduction Women currently make up 56% of all undergraduates but remain underrepresented in almost all science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. This trend certainly holds true in engineering at the University of Akron, where women constitute only 18% of the engineering student population. In addition, while women’s representation in the workforce has increased, their representation in the science and engineering workforce has remained stagnant or declined (Clewell & Campbell, 2002). Given these numbers, it seems imperative that university engineering programs focus efforts on the recruitment and retention of women. Tonso (1996) argues that "engineering education must change before inclusion of women is realized" (p. 217), and that this change must represent substantive changes not only to the curriculum, but also to the very culture of engineering education.

One response to this problem is to develop and implement curricular and instructional strategies that move to restructure the cultural norms in engineering education in ways that are more inclusive of and effective with girls and women. We argue that an innovative new program in Chemical Engineering at the University of Akron, the Vertically Integrated Team Design Project (VITDP), provides the tools to enact this cultural shift. Our data suggest that women who participated in VITDP experienced increased opportunities for participation and leadership, thus helping them to hone their engineering skills and boost their self confidence regarding their engineering abilities. In addition, many of these young women articulated how the project helped them feel connected—to their own experiences, to others, and to the material —and how they learned more as a result. We believe the increased opportunities and self-confidence women experienced are the result of cultural shifts in how chemical engineering education takes place at The University of Akron, influencing not only how women, and men, learn chemical engineering, but also what they learn about the meanings of engineering practice and culture.

Gender Equity in Science and Engineering Education Gender equity is most often defined as equality for all genders and sexes (Arambula-Greenfield & Feldman, 1997; Lynch, 2000). More specifically, gender equity means parity in quality and quantity for males and females (Rodriguez, 1998). A definition of gender equity, in reference to science education, might be equality of gender representation in those who do science as scientists. However, in light of the standards movement’s documents such as Science for All Americans (Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989) and the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1997), gender equity might also be achieved if the same numbers of male and female students have the opportunity to do science. In other words, equity is achieved when all students have the knowledge, tools, and dispositions to do science (Kahle, 1996). Mason and Kahle (1998) argue that: “Women should be recognized as

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Evans, E., & Broadway, F., & Spickard Prettyman, S., & Qammar, H. (2005, June), Engineering Change For Women: The Role Of Curricular And Instructional Change Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14452

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