Asee peer logo

Gendered Professional Role Confidence and Persistence of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Students

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Kimberly Ren University of Toronto

visit author page

Kimberly is an enthusiastic Engineering Science student at the University of Toronto specializing in Biomedical Systems Engineering. She is a passionate proponent of women in STEM. She is an award-winner in engineering competitions across Canada and beyond in areas including super-resolution microscopy, machine learning solutions for health care, and space missions for microbiology research.

visit author page


Alison Olechowski University of Toronto Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Alison Olechowski is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and the Troost Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead). She completed her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) studying product development decision-making during complex industry projects. Dr. Olechowski completed her BSc (Engineering) at Queen’s University and her MS at MIT, both in Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Olechowski and her research group Ready Lab study the processes and tools that teams of engineers use in industry as they design innovative new products.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI) technology can be biased through non-representative training and testing activities leading to discriminatory and negative social consequences. The enormous potential of ML/AI to shape the future of technology underscores the need to increase the diversity of workers within the field, with one group of untapped talent being women engineers. An unresolved contradiction exists between the trend of greater woman representation in broader STEM fields and the consistently low numbers of women engineers pursuing careers in ML/AI. Furthermore, there has been a lack of tailored research investigating the potential causes of such under-representation. Professional role confidence has been shown to be a significant and positive predictor of persistence of women in STEM. However, this link has not yet been established specifically within the field of ML/AI. For this study, we surveyed targeted undergraduate students at a major international university. Students reported on their predictors of persistence including their professional role confidence in ML/AI, their experiences with discrimination, their career exposure, and their internal drivers. We present three models using Ordinal Logistic Regression to determine the effect of those predictors on Intentional Persistence. We found that higher levels of Expertise Confidence and Career Fit Confidence were related to higher levels of persistence in ML/AI careers. We also found that women who experienced discrimination from their instructors were less likely to persist in engineering and that discrimination was more prevalent for women than for men. Focusing on those predictors of intentional persistence, our study calls for efforts to correct the under-representation of women in ML/AI.

Ren, K., & Olechowski, A. (2020, June), Gendered Professional Role Confidence and Persistence of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34704

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: © 2020 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