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Perspectives On "Career And Family" Alternatives For Female Engineering Faculty

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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

Been There, Done That: Advice for NEEs

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.955.1 - 14.955.10



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Paper Authors


Saeed Moaveni Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Saeed Moaveni is Professor of Mechanical Engineering and former Chair of Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Dr. Moaveni has over 20 years of professional experience and is a registered P.E. in New York. He is the author of two popular text books in finite element method and engineering fundamentals.

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Deborah Nykanen Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Deborah K. Nykanen is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her teaching, research and professional experience focus on water resources, hydrology and hydrometeorology. Dr. Nykanen has 8 years of academic experience and is a registered P.E. in Minnesota.

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Karen Chou Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Karen C. Chou is Professor of Civil Engineering and former Civil Engineering Coordinator at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Dr. Chou has over 25 years of professional experience and is a registered P.E. in New York, Tennessee, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota.

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

Perspectives on "Career and Family" Alternatives for Female Engineering Faculty


It is well established that female faculty represent a small percentage of the total faculty in engineering departments. It is also well known that engineering programs need to find solutions to increase their number of female faculty. Academic careers are demanding, specially, in the earlier years when a lot is expected of young tenure-track faculty. For those female faculty members who also would like to start a family, the demand of a full-time academic career forces them to choose between devoting time to family or pursuing professional goals. Often, the question becomes, start a family or get tenured? Male faculty, on the other hand, are less likely to face this dilemma. Moreover, most administrators are male who do not fully understand the need to accommodate female faculty. A young bright female faculty whom we hired for our new civil engineering program was facing this dilemma: family or career? The choice for our program was then to lose a highly talented educator or find an arrangement whereby she could start her family and contribute to the success of the program at the same time. In this paper, we discuss the arrangement that was made approximately four years ago. Our young female faculty, who has started a family with two children and a third on the way, is now teaching and conducting research half-time and performing admirably. Two years ago, she won “the excellence in teaching award” in our college of nearly 140 faculty, and last year she was awarded tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. In this paper, we offer perspectives by the former department chair (male) and the faculty member. We present our perspectives on the benefits, challenges, and the limitations of the arrangement and suggest ways to improve similar future arrangements.


In recent years, much has been reported about many issues facing female faculty, particularly in engineering - issues such as fewer number of tenure and promotions, fewer leadership positions, and lower salaries when compared to men. In a male dominated field such as engineering, we have come to accept these outcomes. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 19721, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” had a significant impact on high school and collegiate athletics. Title IX did a lot in changing the male dominated culture of athletics in institutions of higher education and afforded women the same rights as men to participate and compete in sports. Although Title IX did a lot of good for women athletics, it makes no specific reference to athletics. The act covers all educational activities. Imagine enforcing Title IX in the way it was originally intended and its impact on bringing equality in science and engineering education and changing the hiring and retention practices in a male dominated field such as engineering in the same way it did in athletics.

According to the American Association of University Professors2, most Ph.D. candidates receive their degrees in their early 30s. Considering the fact that the tenure process usually takes 6 to 7 years, it is then self-evident that for most female faculty the tenure period overlaps with their

Moaveni, S., & Nykanen, D., & Chou, K. (2009, June), Perspectives On "Career And Family" Alternatives For Female Engineering Faculty Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5678

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