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Explaining Faculty Involvement In Women's Retention

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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

10.614.1 - 10.614.23

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Paper Authors

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Laura Kramer

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

Explaining Faculty Involvement in Women's Retention

Laura Kramer Montclair State University

After a period of rapidly increasing female enrollments in engineering (from the mid 1970s to the late 1980s), the percentage of undergraduate degrees earned by women climbed very slowly and has been stuck near twenty percent for more than ten years. Without more directly confronting and responding to a relatively unchanged set of cultural and institutional factors, gender integration in engineering may have gone about as far as it can. The research described in this paper helps to fill in the picture of the engineering faculty, whose role(s) and role performance(s) are generally assumed rather than examined in most research on the undergraduate engineering experience. Based on interviews with 100 faculty, administrators, and student support professionals at five campuses, I describe a variety of faculty views toward the teaching of engineering generally, and toward different demographic groups of students. I describe the variety of contexts within which engineering education is conducted, and their influences on faculty attitudes and behaviors. I move from the national level to the university or the college, which affects faculty life and their views about teaching and students. Locally, I emphasize the department, in which cultural and organizational factors come together most immediately in faculty lives. Finally, I suggest some individual faculty characteristics that help explain the variation in outlook and behaviors among colleagues in the same departments and institutions.

The literature suggests that the behavior and attitudes of faculty have an impact on the educational success and even the retention of their students. Although engineering faculty members are important actors, through their teaching, advising, and designing of curriculum, their professional lives tend to be described at the methodological extremes of either multi- disciplinary, national faculty attitude surveys or participant observation accounts centered on students’ lives34, 10. There is little available that focuses on the culture of U.S. engineering educators and the social structures in which they lead their professional lives.

Faculty behaviors and attitudes undoubtedly have a significant impact on nontraditional engineering students’ decisions to remain or leave. An expanding literature details the kinds of academic settings and experiences associated with a positive student outcome28. Teaching and advising obviously affect a student's experience, while curricular development and revision have a less direct impact.

Faculty figure as teachers, advisors, and curriculum designers in discussions of influences on undergraduate retention30,20. Leading critics of engineering education agree that the “weeding” impact of traditional curriculum and pedagogical approaches of engineering courses has a disproportionate impact on nontraditional students, who may view the climate as confirming that they are not welcome members of the student body. In addition, gendered patterns in the student role contribute to different interpretations of similar experiences among

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

Kramer, L. (2005, June), Explaining Faculty Involvement In Women's Retention Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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: © 2005 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