June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Women in Engineering
The workplace experiences of faculty in engineering, physics, and computer science were evaluated through the lens of self-determination theory (SDT), which posits three universal human needs (autonomy, competence, relatedness). It has been well-established that meeting these needs in the workplace is associated with higher productivity and greater employee retention. Interviews with 14 female and 10 male faculty employed at a variety of institutions across the United States were conducted, transcribed, and analyzed. Semi-structured questions regarding past and present work situations, as well as ideal and worst-case scenarios, were used to understand how needs were valued, met, or unmet in the workplace. In this study, content analysis was used to code the responses of interviewees regarding past and present workplace experiences according to the three universal needs of SDT. Results indicated that both men and women spoke to relatedness needs far more frequently than needs for autonomy and competence. Women spoke to the satisfaction of relatedness needs and the frustration of those needs about equally while men spoke primarily to relatedness satisfaction.
Across the 24 interviews, over 100 independent ideas were expressed regarding relatedness in the workplace. The satisfaction of relatedness needs was expressed in similar ways between men and women. Collaboration and frequent interactions with peers were important to both men and women and often made a critical difference in whether interviewees found their respective workplaces to be fulfilling or not. In contrast, competition from colleagues that often progressed to the point of taking ideas, credit, or otherwise thwarting a faculty member’s career came up multiple times as a source of frustrated relatedness needs. Unmet relatedness needs were often expressed as isolation and loneliness and often attributed to poor representation of women in a home department or unit. The results of these interviews viewed through the lens of SDT suggest a need to support relatedness more effectively in the academic workplace, both by reducing detrimental competitiveness and by alleviating isolation among all faculty, regardless of gender.
Wilson, D., & VanAntwerp, J. J., & Wright, J., & Summers, L. (2019, June), Need Satisfaction and Need Frustration among Women and Men Faculty in Engineering: A Self-Determination Perspective Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33132
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