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Investigating the Role of Faculty Gender in Mentoring Female Engineering Students for Success

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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 7

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Kimberly Stillmaker P.E. California State University, Fresno

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Dr. Stillmaker is an Assistant Professor in the Civil & Geomatics Engineering Department at California State University, Fresno. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in structural engineering. She attained her PhD in Civil Engineering at UC Davis. Her research interests include seismic analysis and design of steel structures and gender equity in engineering.

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Lalita G Oka California State University, Fresno

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Dr. Lalita Oka is an Assistant Professor in the department of Civil and Geomatics Engineering at the California State University, Fresno. She teaches undergraduate and graduate level Geotechnical Engineering courses. Her research interests include Geomechanics, Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering, Experimental and Numerical Modeling and Engineering Pedagogy. Her pedagogical work is supported by the ‘Course Redesign with Technology (CRT)’ grant from the Chancellor’s Office of California State University and the Discover-e program of the Fresno campus.

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Jesus Gutierrez Plascencia

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Cindy Charlott Schwartz-Doyle California State University, Fresno


Katherine Lor California State University, Fresno

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Ms. Lor is a mechanical engineer with the Department of the Navy. She has graduated from California State University, Fresno with a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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While many previously male-dominated collegiate programs have experienced demographic shifts over the past half century to become gender-balanced, engineering has persisted as a male-dominated discipline.  Trends between national gender proportions of faculty and degree recipients in engineering over a span of fifty years and their implications on same-gender mentoring relationship for female engineering students are discussed. This paper analyzes the responses of students of all genders from sixteen departments housed in four separate colleges across California State University, Fresno to investigate the relationship between faculty gender and success indicators of female engineering students. The responses of female students in the Lyles College of Engineering are compared with the responses of male and non-binary engineering students as well as gendered groups from gender-balanced and female-dominated departments in the university. While faculty gender was not correlated with academic performance of students in the LCOE, 52% and 56% of female engineering students surveyed agreed that it is important to have professors and mentors, respectively, of their same gender. This was significantly higher than all male student groups surveyed, including those from the LCOE and female-dominated departments, and female students from non-STEM gender balanced and female-dominated departments. Of female engineering students who indicated same gender faculty or mentors in their discipline were important, over 97% indicated having these individuals made them believe they could achieve more in their profession. Agreement with this statement was significantly lower among male engineering students. The survey indicated that in engineering and gender-balanced fields, academically qualified students of all genders were disproportionately more likely to be encouraged to pursue graduate studies by female faculty than by male faculty.  The data presented in this paper underscores the importance of women faculty and mentors for the success of female engineering students. 

Stillmaker, K., & Oka, L. G., & Gutierrez Plascencia, J., & Schwartz-Doyle, C. C., & Lor, K. (2020, June), Investigating the Role of Faculty Gender in Mentoring Female Engineering Students for Success Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34882

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