June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Women in Engineering
13.639.1 - 13.639.13
There are significant gender differences between the numbers of undergraduates and graduate students who study technology related fields. For example, although females make up more than half of all undergraduate students, they make up considerably less than half of all students in professional schools and even less in technical graduate schools like engineering.
This research carried out an analysis of high school students’ perceptions of technology and their intent to select an engineering/technology major in college in order to determine if there were any gender differences among them. A survey instrument was designed to obtain data on a number of variables, such as the students’ general knowledge about various technologies, the influence of their parents, peers, and teachers, as well as their Locus of Control (their perception of control over their life’s outcomes) and their intent to major in a technology related field (including engineering, math, and science). The word ‘technology’ was left undefined for the students so as not to prejudice their answers. The analysis investigated if there were any statistically significant differences between the opinions of boys versus girls. The validated instrument was administered to a sample of 81 students from a high school in a different school district than the pilot study. The data was analyzed using bivariate correlation techniques in SPSS, a statistical software package.
The results of this study are that as a group, boys displayed higher confidence in performing technology tasks, showed more knowledge of technology, were more likely to consider technology work as fun and were more likely to consider technology majors for college compared to girls. However, both boys and girls agreed that teachers encourage boys more than girls to pursue technology majors and careers. There was a strong correlation between girls’ sense of control of their lives and choosing a technology major. Parents appeared to have a stronger positive influence in boys’ decisions to select technology majors compared to girls. Both boys and girls indicated that their schools were giving somewhat gender biased messages in providing more support for boys to consider technology majors but to a lesser extent than has been reported in the last decade.
A gender imbalance, favoring males has consistently been reported in the choice of engineering and engineering technology majors in college.1,2 In recent years there has been a sharp decline in the percentage of high school seniors and college freshmen who plan on majoring in engineering. From 8.6% in 1992, the numbers have plunged to 5.3% in 2003.3 In the academic year 2005 – 2006 19.3% of the undergraduate engineering majors were women4 and only 10.4% of the engineering technology (ET) were women.5 But more than half of all undergraduates are women and female high school seniors are more likely to anticipate graduating from college compared to their male counterparts.6 These numbers raise questions and concerns about the continuing presence of a substantial technology gender gap in engineering and engineering technology.
Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the gender gap in women’s choice of science and technology majors. Such research includes studies about women in the education
Brake, M., & Bhatnagar, K. (2008, June), Gender Differences In High School Student’s Views Of Technology Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/4158
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