June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Design in Engineering Education
11.697.1 - 11.697.11
How the Presence of Women Affects the Performance of Design Teams in a Predominately Male Environment
The literature reports conflicting results regarding the effect on team performance when one or two “minorities” are added to the team. Further, there are very few studies that report on teams that are actually doing engineering or design work, and even those studies normally define “performance” as the overall grade for the project rather than indicating how the teams performed on the various aspects of the design process. The current study presents results obtained for nearly 400 students working on 99 teams with a female minority of 14.1% working on a semester-long, sophomore, design projects. The team performances are compared in four categories: artifact testing, design critiques based on initial specifications, communications, and overall project grade. The teams with one or two females slightly outperformed the all-male teams in all categories but one. However, the increased performance is not statistically significant.
There appear to be conflicting opinions related to the effect on a team’s performance when a gender minority joins a team1,2. Some say homogeneous teams are more effective; some say heterogeneous teams are; and some say it doesn’t matter. Many of the studies on the effect of gender on team performance are limited to cases in which the teams are performing non- engineering activities. In an exception, one study3 concludes a team’s gender composition to be an insignificant factor regarding the performance of product design teams. In another exception, a study2 describes a design experience involving thirty-one females and sixty-five males assigned to twenty-three, four-person teams and one, five-person team in a course, Introduction to Engineering Design and Graphics. Teams were formed with comparable grade point averages or comparable scores on the mathematics portion of the SAT if grade point averages were not available. Two eight-week projects were conducted. Only one project required the testing of a design artifact, and its evaluation counted for 60% of the first project’s grade. However, all teams scored between 100 and 110 on the testing; so it appears that team performances on the first project were discriminated primarily on the basis of the written reports (25%) (grades from 10 to 105) and the team quizzes (15%) (grades from 49 to 94). The second eight-week project was a paper study, and grading was based on team quizzes and a written report. In any event, the authors conclude that “the average performance of [gender] homogeneous teams is slightly better than that of heterogeneous teams.” Their limited data indicted that nine all-male teams out performed three all-female teams by about 3%. The all-male teams outperformed the ten equally distributed teams (two males and two females) by 6% and two teams with one female each by 22%.
In a third study4, team performances of freshman and sophomore students in an introductory design sequence were compared based on team makeup by gender. Teams were composed of from four to six members. Four team types were identified: all male (37 teams), male-dominated
Bannerot, R. (2006, June), How The Presence Of Women Affects The Performance Of Design Teams In A Predominately Male Environment Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/472
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