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Great Progress, Great Divide: The Need For Evolution Of The Recruitment Model For Women In Engineering

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Diversity: Women & Minorities in ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.676.1 - 10.676.12



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Paper Authors

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Joan Begolly

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Jennifer Gilley

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

Session 3148

Great Progress, Great Divide: The Need for Evolution of the Recruitment Model for Women in Engineering

Jennifer Gilley and Joan Begolly Penn State New Kensington

Abstract Despite years of recruitment efforts, the percentage of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to women in the U.S. still hovers at only 18%, and the percentage of degrees awarded in engineering technology stands at 16%. The question then remains, what keeps high school girls from choosing engineering or engineering technology as a potential career path? Or conversely, for those girls who do consider engineering and technology, what is motivating them to do so? We surveyed the participants in an on-campus outreach program at Penn State New Kensington entitled Females Interested in Reaching for Science, Technology, and Engineering (FIRSTE) to garner information about demographics, influences, and perceptions that may have enabled their consideration of a scientific/engineering career. To determine their uniqueness, we administered the same survey to a control group of college students in non-scientific and non-engineering fields. The differences in background influences between the two groups were subtler than predicted, but the perceptions of both groups about engineering were enlightening. We found that although great progress has been made in eliminating certain disadvantages that keep girls from entering the science and engineering pipeline, the great divide between girls and engineering remains due to a lack of familiarity with the nature and possibilities of engineering and engineering technology.

Introduction Low Number of Degrees Earned Between 1994 and 2001 the percentage of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to women grew from 16% to 20%1. While this growth is encouraging, it is occurring at a painfully slow pace and is partially due to a decrease in the number of men enrolling in engineering programs rather than a substantial increase in female enrollment. The numbers for engineering technology programs are even lower. The percentage of associate’s degrees in engineering technology awarded to women in 2001 stands at only 16%, an increase from 13% in 1994 only because of a decline in male enrollment1. Over two decades of recruitment efforts, outreach programs, awareness-raising, and attempts to infuse women role models into elementary and secondary math and science education have done much for moving women into scientific fields, but neither engineering nor engineering technology has felt these effects the way other scientific fields have. Biological/life sciences is a particular success story with 57% of degrees now going to women. Other science fields still have a ways to go but are making progress: 41% of physical science

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Begolly, J., & Gilley, J. (2005, June), Great Progress, Great Divide: The Need For Evolution Of The Recruitment Model For Women In Engineering Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15484

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