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Female vs Male Secondary Students: Comparing and Contrasting Perceptions of Engineering

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jason Bazylak University of Toronto

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Professor Bazylak brings his engineering, education, and design experience to his role at the University of Toronto. His primary role is coordinating and teaching an award winning first year design and communications course (Engineering Strategies and Practice). As well he conducts action-based research into improving the learning experience of undergraduate engineering students and increasing diversity in the profession, particularly women and Aboriginals (Native Americans).

Professor Bazylak started his career as a manufacturing engineer in a new product introduction division of a large telecommunication manufacturer. He returned to academia first as an engineering co-operative education coordinator and then as an engineer-in-residence. He joined the University of Toronto as a teaching focused professor where he is heavily involved in design education and diversity studies.

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Ruth Childs University of Toronto Orcid 16x16

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Ruth Childs is an associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at the University of Toronto and a past president of the Canadian Educational Researchers’ Association. She teaches courses in research design and measurement theory and has conducted many studies investigating the design and equity of large-scale assessments, admissions processes, and other evaluation systems. Her most recent large research projects investigated how elementary students deal with uncertainty when answering multiple-choice questions and what Ontario's universities are doing to improve access for underrepresented groups.

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Aimy Bazylak University of Toronto

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Prof. Aimy Bazylak is an Associate Professor in Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. She is the Tier II Canada Research Chair in Thermofluidics for Clean Energy and the Director of the University of Toronto Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE). In 2008, she received the inaugural Bullitt Environmental Fellowship for leadership in the environmental field. She was awarded the I.W. Smith Award for Outstanding achievement in creative mechanical engineering within 10 years of graduation (2011) and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Early Researcher Award (2012). She is the Director of the Thermofluids for Energy and Advanced Materials (TEAM) Laboratory working in fuel cells, electrolyzers, and subsurface geology. In 2014 she became a Fellow of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering and in 2015 was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers.

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The under-representation of females in the engineering profession and education programs is evident. However, the cause of this under-representation is not clear. The literature contains many related research studies, but the convergence on a definitive cause is lacking. Another unexplained phenomenon is the non-uniform female enrolment across the various engineering disciplines, with disciplines such as chemical engineering having a higher female enrolment than mechanical engineering. We hypothesize that secondary students’ gendered perceptions of the engineering profession and education programs, disciplines, typical engineering skill set (and self-evaluation against this skill set) are significant factors in explaining the under-representation and non-uniform discipline subscription. The first stage of this multi-stage project, as documented in a previous paper titled, “Methodology for Studying Gendered Differences Amongst Secondary Student Perceptions of Engineering,” was to design and validate a survey tool to test our hypothesis. The second stage, and the focus of this paper, was to pilot this survey tool in a secondary school classroom to collect data during a series of in-class engineering promotion workshops. The quantitative (multiple choice), semi-quantitative (Likert-like scale), and qualitative (open ended) responses were analysed using descriptive statistics and coding for trends amongst: 1) all students, 2) female students, and 3) male students. These trends were then compared and contrasted to identify where female students held distinctly different perceptions and priorities than their male counterparts. These findings have implications for the design of targeted engineering outreach programs to better recruit the next generation of female engineers.

Bazylak, J., & Childs, R., & Bazylak, A. (2017, June), Female vs Male Secondary Students: Comparing and Contrasting Perceptions of Engineering Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28354

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