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Parental Support and Acceptance Determines Women’s Choice of Engineering as a Major

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session - Strategies Beyond the Classroom to Tackle Gender Issues

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Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Nora Madjar University of Connecticut

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Nora Madjar is an Associate Professor of Management at the University of Connecticut School of Business. She received her Ph. D. in Business Administration from the University of Illinois and is a Fulbright Scholar from 2011.

Her main expertise is creativity in the workplace and her research has contributed to a better understanding of the social and contextual factors that stimulate or hinder creative performance. Her current research focus is on the interaction of work and non-work relationships and their effect on creativity at work. Her scholarly work also explores different ways to structure jobs to facilitate creative work. She has multiple articles on creativity published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management, Academy of Management Journal, and Journal of Organizational Behavior among others.

Professor Madjar teaches management and negotiations courses at both the undergraduate ad MBA level and coaches MBA students for international negotiation competitions. She also is a co-principle investigator on a NSF Grant for stimulating creativity in engineering education and connected with the grant developed and is currently teaching an interdisciplinary course on managing creativity and innovation in the area of nano-enabled technologies.

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Bryan Douglas Huey University of Connecticut


Leslie M. Shor University of Connecticut

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Leslie Shor is an Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education and Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. She mentors an interdisciplinary research team working at the interface of chemical engineering, microbiology, and advanced manufacturing. Current projects in her lab are focused on gradient bioengineering for next-generation biofuel production and new agricultural biotechnology to maximize crop yields. She is active in education and outreach initiatives that increase diversity and promote engineering as a service profession.

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The goal of this research was to explore what are the critical factors that may influence and motivate women to major in engineering. Guided by Social Cognitive Career Theory, we examined a broad list of factors from personal characteristics and abilities and confidence level, to abilities and professional orientation of parents and friends and the potential influence of these social groups on the choice of a major. We conducted a survey of 806 freshmen and sophomore students at a public university, enrolled in biology, engineering and business classes, and asked them a series of questions about their choice of a major. Approximately 50 percent of the participants were women and about 36 percent of them were engineering majors. Our findings demonstrate that confidence in abilities, intrinsic interest in major and potential to make a difference were significant factors for individuals to choose a major but there were no significant differences among majors or gender on how these factors played a role. Interestingly, parents and friends played a significant role in the selection of engineering as a major for women. They were not a significant influence for male students. The result did not depend on the profession or qualification of the parents. We argue that these findings demonstrates that women still need more support and acceptance than men to choose engineering as a career and they need this in addition to their own intrinsic interest in the field. Implications of these findings for practice will be discussed.

Madjar, N., & Huey, B. D., & Shor, L. M. (2016, June), Parental Support and Acceptance Determines Women’s Choice of Engineering as a Major Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25852

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