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Exploring the Relationships between Acculturation Attitudes and Demographic Characteristics in Engineering Workplaces

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 9

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Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Rohini N. Abhyankar Arizona State University

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Rohini Abhyankar is a doctoral student at Arizona State University’s Engineering Education Systems and Design program. Rohini has a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Physics from the University of Delhi, India. Rohini has over ten years of industry experience in addition to extensive teaching experience. Her dissertation focus is on understanding the acculturation dynamics and workplace adjustment for engineers and the corresponding influence on job satisfaction and intentions to persist. Rohini's other interests include faculty development and engineering pathways of graduating engineers.

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Samantha Ruth Brunhaver Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Samantha Brunhaver is an Assistant Professor of Engineering in the Fulton Schools of Engineering Polytechnic School. Dr. Brunhaver recently joined Arizona State after completing her M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. She also has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern University. Dr. Brunhaver's research examines the career decision-making and professional identity formation of engineering students, alumni, and practicing engineers. She also conducts studies of new engineering pedagogy that help to improve student engagement and understanding.

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Calls for increased diversity in gender- and race-imbalanced occupations have gained prominence in recent years based on evidence of its benefits for both organizations and individuals. The presence of a non-conducive, unwelcoming work culture for women and minorities in engineering has received particular attention in the literature, bringing the subjects of cultural diversity and equal representation into focus. Gaining a better understanding of minoritized engineers’ adaptation dynamics and experiences may be critical for mitigating their alienation, dissatisfaction, and departure from the workplace. This research paper investigates differences in engineers’ acculturation mindsets and corresponding job outcomes by gender, race, education, and professional experience. Data for the study came from 502 engineering alumni of a large southwestern university who graduated within the past ten years and holding engineering jobs. Acculturation theory posits that the value a worker places on abiding by their personal values and fitting in at work, respectively, will influence their approach to workplace acculturation, which will, in turn, influence their more distal job outcomes such as job satisfaction. Participants were, therefore, asked to rate how important it was for them to retain their personal values (Importance-Personal) and be accepted by their coworkers (Importance-Belonging). A two-step cluster analysis was conducted to classify participants based on their responses to these two items. Differences in engineers’ acculturation attitudes between men and women, white men and white women, Asian and white men, graduate and undergraduate degree holders, and early and mid-career engineers were evaluated using Chi-square analyses. We used Odds Ratios to understand the directionality and the strengths of relations. Preliminary findings suggest that a four-cluster solution best represented the space of participants’ acculturation attitudes. Additionally, the distribution of demographic groups across clusters varied. For example, Women engineers were 2.1 times more likely to be in the Integration cluster and 0.4 times less likely to be in the Separation cluster and White engineers were 2.0 times more likely to be in the Separation cluster than non-Whites. The results demonstrate that engineers with different acculturation preferences demonstrate different acculturation attitudes. These insights can help employers, educators, and researchers gain a better understanding of the dynamics underlying acculturation in engineering workplaces and may inform interventions for increasing the satisfaction and retention of underrepresented groups, who are most likely to leave engineering.

Abhyankar, R. N., & Brunhaver, S. R. (2021, July), Exploring the Relationships between Acculturation Attitudes and Demographic Characteristics in Engineering Workplaces Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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