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Gender Stereotypes: Historical Comparison of Female Students' Beliefs on Career, Marriage, and Children (1935 versus 2019 Populations)

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Suzanne Zurn-Birkhimer Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Dr. Suzanne Zurn-Birkhimer is Associate Director of the Women in Engineering Program and Associate Professor (by courtesy) in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University. Dr. Zurn-Birkhimer conducts research and leads retention activities including administration of the undergraduate and graduate mentoring programs and the teaching of the Women in Engineering seminar courses. For the past decade, Dr. Zurn-Birkhimer’s research has focused on broadening participation of women and underrepresented group in STEM fields. Recently, she has been investigating the intersection of education and career path with cultural identity and is developing strategies to inform programming and policies that facilitate recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations in academia. In 2012 Dr. Zurn-Birkhimer was presented with an Outstanding Alumni Award from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and in 2019 the College of Science Distinguished Alumni Award at Purdue University. Dr. Zurn-Birkhimer earned her B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from Purdue University.

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Mayari I. Serrano Purdue University at West Lafayette (PPI) Orcid 16x16

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MAYARI SERRANO is currently a graduate research assistant in the College of Engineering at Purdue University. She earned her B.S. degree in Biotechnology Engineering from the Army Polytechnic School, Quito, Ecuador. She completed her M.S. in Computer and Information Technology at Purdue University. Mayari is currently a PhD student at Purdue University and is working in for the Women in Engineering Program. Her interests include foster STEM enthusiasm, and technology innovation.

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Amelia Earhart, world-renowned aviatrix, played an instrumental role in the early years of aviation. She was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean. Her worldwide impact also included being a best-selling author and an advocate for women's rights. She felt that women should learn to live on their own by supporting themselves, pursuing education, and planning their own adventures - radical ideas for the time. In the midst of her aviation career, Earhart joined the staff of a university as Counselor in Careers for Women and technical adviser to the Department of Aeronautics. In 1934, Earhart created and distributed a questionnaire to the female students to measure their interest in pursuing a career and how they would balance that pursuit with their personal lives. This questionnaire and a speech given by Earhart discussing the results are preserved in her personal papers. In the fall of 2019, this same questionnaire was distributed at the same institution and was completed by 414 graduate and undergraduate female engineering students. Note that there are inherent issues with distributing a survey written in 1934, such as the assumption that women would marry, and would marry men. This paper will discuss similarities and differences between the 1934 and 2019 survey responses. For example, a similar percentage of survey participants (92% in 1934 versus 98% in 2019) plan to work after leaving college. Not surprisingly, however, an enormous difference was found when participants were asked if they planned to continue working after marriage, with 21% responding positively in 1934 versus 99.8% in 2019. An examination of the 2019 female students’ opinions on and stereotypes about employment, professional success, and work-life integration will also be discussed.

Zurn-Birkhimer, S., & Serrano, M. I. (2020, June), Gender Stereotypes: Historical Comparison of Female Students' Beliefs on Career, Marriage, and Children (1935 versus 2019 Populations) Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34703

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