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Obstacles As Challenges: Retention Of Female Engineering Students In Mexico

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Attitudes, Self-Confidence, and Self-Efficacy of Women Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.919.1 - 14.919.11



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Paper Authors


Carmen Villa Texas A&M University

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Carmen Villa is a researcher at the College of Education , and an assistant lecturer in the Hispanic Studies Department at Texas A&M University. She received a B.Sc. degree in computer science engineering from Tec de Monterrey in Mexico City; a D.E.A. in computer science form the INPG in Grenoble, France; and a Pd.D. in educational administration and human resource development from Texas A&M University. Her research interests include underrepresented populations in higher education, cultural practices and their impact on education for Hispanic students.

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Carolyn Clark Texas A&M University

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Dr. M Carolyn Clark is an associate professor and Program Chair of Adult Education in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development. Her primary emphasis area is adult education with a research interest in feminism and narrative analysis. She is co-editor of the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 2004 to the present. Recent publications include Narrative learning and the practice of adult education Rossiter, M., and Clark, M. C. (in press). Narrative learning and the practice of , adult education. Malabar, FL: Krieger. And journal articles in Qualitative Inquiry,
Journal of Visual Impairments and Blindness, and Journal of Engineering Education.

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Jennifer Sandlin Arizona State University

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

Obstacles as Challenges: Retention of Female Engineering Students in Mexico


As part of a larger study examining the experiences of female engineering students in Mexico, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of women college students in engineering programs in Mexico and to understand how the students reframe their experiences and remain in their programs. This study is set in a particular social context where, although the proportion of women in college has achieved parity with men, in some college programs such as engineering the proportion of males is still far greater than females. Only 24% of engineering students are female, while women constitute 50% of the total enrollment in higher education institutions in Mexico1.

It is thus important to understand how female engineering students who have persisted perceive their experiences in college. This study focused on the experiences and strengths of women in engineering programs in Mexico that helped them remain in their programs.

Review of the Literature

Enrollment in Mexican universities has grown steadily since 1970, and has doubled in the last 20 years. However, higher education in Mexico is still a privilege-- only 22% of Mexicans between 20 and 24 years of age are enrolled in higher education institutions2, compared with the U.S. where participation in higher education among the same sector of the population is nearly 50%3. At the same time, participation of women in higher education in Mexico has improved substantially, and has nearly achieved parity with men1. However, the increased enrollment of women in higher education in Mexico does not mean that the division between traditionally “male” and “female” academic programs has disappeared. For instance, in 2006, in traditionally “female” programs such as education, women represent 66% of students, and in traditionally “male” programs such as metallurgy engineering, enrollment of women barely reaches 3%.1

Besides the low representation of women in engineering programs in Mexico, a recurring problem in engineering education is the high rate of attrition, or the rate at which students withdraw from higher education institutions without finishing a program.4 The review of the documents from the universities participant in this study, as well as national statistics show that the total attrition from engineering has always been very high.5,6,7 Research on women in science and engineering has also helped determine factors that contribute to female student attrition, such as the lack of female faculty and role models, especially in engineering colleges; the hostile climate of engineering colleges; and poor teaching, especially by science, math and engineering faculty.8,9,10

In addition, studies in college student retention, which address students who remain at the same institution where they start until they complete a program,4 have found retention is influenced by individual and institutional factors such as student background; ethnicity; high school grades and

Villa, C., & Clark, C., & Sandlin, J. (2009, June), Obstacles As Challenges: Retention Of Female Engineering Students In Mexico Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5104

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015