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Gender Differences In Expressed And Measured Interests In Engineering Related Fields Over A 30 Year Span

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Gender and Minority Issues in K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.644.1 - 14.644.11



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Paper Authors


Tiffany Iskander University of Utah

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Tiffany Iskander is a first year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Utah. Her research interests are focused on the expressed and measured gender differences and areas of interest in college bound students.

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Paul Gore University of Utah

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Paul Gore is an Associate Professor and Student Success Special Projects Coordinator at the University of Utah. His research focuses on the academic and career success of adolescents and young adults. Prior to his current position, Dr. Gore was the Director of Career Transitions Research at ACT, Inc. in Iowa City.

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Cynthia Furse University of Utah Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Furse received her B.S. in electrical engineering with a mathematics minor in 1985, M.S. degree in electrical engineering in 1988, and her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Utah in 1994. She is currently a professor at the University of Utah and has taught electromagnetics, wireless communication, computational electromagnetics, microwave engineering, antenna design, and introductory electrical engineering. Dr. Furse works to interest young students, particularly women and minorities in engineering and routinely volunteers in Utah's K-12 schools as an engineering mentor, science educator, and engineering career guidance counselor and is active with the Society of Women Engineers, Junior Engineering State, Expanding your Horizons, School-to-Careers, MESA, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

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

Gender differences in expressed interests in engineering-related fields over a 30-year span

E. Tiffany Iskander1 Paul A. Gore1 Cynthia Furse2 1 Counseling Psychology Program, College of Education 2 Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, College of Engineering University of Utah

This study examines gender differences and historical trends of high school student interest in engineering based on ACT data on expressed interest compared with that of students’ and ability. Changes have been observed in the interest in engineering fields over time most likely because of societal influences. These influences are especially seen in computer related fields causing speculation that both males and females were influenced by the dot com era but that only male interest was piqued due to the rise of computer games in the late 1990’s. Another interesting observation is the number of students stating they are interested in engineering careers but who minimally or poorly prepared based on their ACT math scores. This raises the question of whether these students understand what engineering is, and whether they have been informed of the demands of the major. These students are likely to face retention issues in engineering fields and are often candidates for math remediation. By better understanding the societal influences as well as gender and ability disparities we will have a better understanding of what needs to be done in order to reverse the current trends of gender disparity and lack of interest in engineering fields.

For almost a century, researchers have observed gender differences in the expressed and measured interests of adolescents and young adults. These differences exist across career and academic interest domains and may partly explain gender disparities in several occupational fields including engineering. In national samples, boys and young men have consistently reported higher interests in engineering relative to their female counterparts. Moreover, recent statistics published by the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology (CPST; http://www.CPST.org1) show declines in the percent of first-year female undergraduate engineering majors from a recorded high of approximately 20% in 1996 to approximately 15% in 2003. Further, womens’ enrollment in engineering graduate programs is lower than all other NSF identified science and engineering-related graduate programs (National Science Foundation, 20052). Not surprisingly, there exists a large gender disparity in engineering employment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor3, less than 15% of all employed engineers are women. This representation plummets in certain engineering specialties (e.g., electrical and mechanical) such that less than 10% are women.

In contrast, women make up almost half of the labor market in life and physical sciences, and over 25% of the labor market in computer and math-related occupations. The fact that engineering continues to lag behind these other technical fields is particularly surprising given the considerable effort and resources allocated to reverse these gender

Iskander, T., & Gore, P., & Furse, C. (2009, June), Gender Differences In Expressed And Measured Interests In Engineering Related Fields Over A 30 Year Span Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5511

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: © 2009 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