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Improved Metric for Identifying Female Faculty Representation in Engineering Departments

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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 8

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jennifer Retherford P.E. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville

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Dr. Retherford is an alumna of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and received her graduate degrees from Vanderbilt University. She currently teaches a variety of courses supporting the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Tennessee. Among many structural engineering courses, Dr. Retherford manages the Senior Design Project course for all undergraduate civil & environmental engineering seniors.

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Sarah J Mobley P.E. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville Orcid 16x16

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Kristen N. Wyckoff The University of Tennessee at Knoxville Orcid 16x16

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Presence of female faculty members in colleges and universities is growing, but many programs continue to reduce the gender gap in an attempt to better balance gender representation in engineering faculty. While many programs report increasing percentages in female hires and retainment of women in faculty roles, reporting of gender as a percentage of the faculty body may not capture a full representation of interaction between students and female faculty. Faculty teaching assignments vary based on rank and professorship and the percent of the faculty body may not be the most insightful mechanism for capturing the true impact of a female hire on the students in a program. In order to better capture the female faculty impact, a study was conducted to map contact hours as a reporting mechanism that can be paired with percentage of faculty as a more robust representation of the gender distribution within a department. Course credit hours for undergraduate curriculum programs were mapped to faculty gender for multiple departments within a college of engineering. Credit hours as well as hours of in-class sessions were reported to capture the minimum contact between a student attending class and a faculty directing the class; results exclude office hours, email contact, and other out-of-class engagement, thereby representing a minimum contact hours number. The results from this exercise demonstrate that the faculty teaching assignment is not directly comparable to percent of body. Programs appearing to have less female faculty than national averages may not necessarily have less female faculty interactions. The compound metric capturing both contact and percent of body may be a preferred metric in understanding the exposure of students to female faculty role models.

Retherford, J., & Mobley, S. J., & Wyckoff, K. N. (2020, June), Improved Metric for Identifying Female Faculty Representation in Engineering Departments Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34788

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