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More Females Than Males? Deciphering The Psychosocial Characteristics That Attract Girls Into Engineering In Puerto Rico

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Conference

2007 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

An International Perspective

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count

17

Page Numbers

12.1080.1 - 12.1080.17

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/3038

Download Count

42

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Paper Authors

biography

Carmen Maldonado University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez

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Carmen Maldonado is a 5th year Industrial Engineering student at the UPRM participating in an undergraduate research opportunities program related to engineering education. Carmen is member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers student chapter and INFORMS.

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Tatiana Ramirez University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez

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Tatiana Ramirez is in her senior year in Industrial Engineering at the UPRM participating in an undergraduate research opportunities program related to engineering education. Tatiana is member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers student chapter and INFORMS.

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Idalis Vazques University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez

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Idalis Vazques is in her senior year in Industrial Engineering at the UPRM participating in an undergraduate research opportunities program related to engineering education. Idalis is member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers student chapter and INFORMS.

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Alexandra Medina-Borja University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez

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Dr. Alexandra Medina-Borja is an assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and Director of the International Service Systems Engineering Lab. Alexandra holds a Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Virginia Tech in Industrial and Systems Engineering and a BS in Production of Materials Engineering from the Federal University of Sao Carlos, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her research interests are systems thinking, system dynamics, service operations, performance measurement using DEA, evaluating success factors in engineering and understanding the cognitive processes that occur during their acquisition.

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

More females than males? Deciphering the psycho-social characteristics that attract girls into engineering in Puerto Rico

Abstract

It is broadly recognized that in many industrialized countries there is a gap in the number of applications and enrollments into engineering careers of female students as compared to their male counterparts. The latest statistics in the US talk of a 60% gap (i.e. 20% vs 80% female and male enrollments respectively). Curiously enough, Puerto Rico is the one location in the Western world where a very rigorous 5-year engineering school attracts roughly the same female and male enrollments to any engineering area, and significantly more females than males to Industrial Engineering in particular. While attrition and retention issues continue to be similar to those in other parts of the United States, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez still graduates more females than males basically due to the initial enrollment numbers. Prior studies about the UPRM case have concentrated in retention strategies and female problems but to our knowledge, no one has tried to determine the psycho-social characteristics of Puerto Rican females that influence their choice of a career in engineering. We present the results of a series of focus groups being undertaken to elicit the factors that affect attraction and retention to the Industrial Engineering program at the UPRM. In this paper, we will concentrate in differentiating prior research findings related to why women are reluctant to enter STEM careers in the US as opposed to in Puerto Rico.

I. Introduction

It is broadly recognized that in many industrialized countries there is a gap in the number of applications and enrollments into engineering careers of female students as compared to their male counterparts. The latest statistics in the United States talk of a 60% gap (i.e. 20% vs. 80% female and male enrollments respectively). Currently, about ten percent of America’s engineers are women, despite the fact that women make up 46 percent of the nation’s workforce1. And this scenario is not likely to change soon. According to the Extraordinary Women Engineers Project (EWEP) study released in April 20052, a staggering number of high school girls – more than 90 percent – do not even consider engineering as a career option. Further, only three out of 85 girls in a EWEP online focus group of academically prepared students indicated that they were planning to become an engineer. According to EWEP, ability is not the issue on the part of girls and young women. Previous studies have found that girls, on average, are just as or more likely as boys to have taken the high school science and math courses (biology, chemistry, physics, and advanced algebra) necessary to enter engineering school.

Curiously enough, Puerto Rico is the one location in the Western world where a very rigorous 5- year engineering school, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, UPRM, attracts roughly 40% to any engineering area and significantly more females than males to Industrial Engineering (IE) in particular. While attrition and retention issues continue to be similar to those in other parts of the United States, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez still graduates more females than males in IE (60% to 40% respectively) basically due to the initial enrollment numbers. Prior studies about the UPRM case have concentrated in retention strategies and female

Maldonado, C., & Ramirez, T., & Vazques, I., & Medina-Borja, A. (2007, June), More Females Than Males? Deciphering The Psychosocial Characteristics That Attract Girls Into Engineering In Puerto Rico Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/3038

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