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Preferences And Challenges For Female Graduate Engineering Students: A Survey Based Study

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Focus on Faculty

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.972.1 - 15.972.12



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Paper Authors

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Soumya Srivastava Mississippi State University

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Anurag Srivastava Mississippi State University

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Adrienne Minerick Mississippi State University


Noel Schulz Mississippi State University

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Noel N. Schulz received her B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1988 and 1990, respectively. She received her Ph.D. in EE from the University of Minnesota in 1995. From July 2001 through August 2009, she was on the faculty of the ECE department at Mississippi State University as the TVA Professor of Power Systems Engineering. She is Paslay Professor in the ECE Department at Kansas State University since August 2009. Noel serves on the ASEE Board of Directors as the PIC IV Chair from 2008-2010. She has also been active in the IEEE Power & Energy Society and served as Secretary for 2004-2007 and Treasurer for 2008-2009.

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

Preferences and challenges for female graduate engineering students: A survey based study Abstract Increasing the number of female graduate students in engineering education has always been challenging. This study presented here examines the preferences and self-recognized challenges identified by international female graduate engineering students at U.S. schools. These findings can also be used by institutions to attract more female students in graduate engineering programs by integrating in ongoing recruitment and retention efforts. Research findings are based on a comprehensive online survey designed and conducted by the authors, who are of diverse nationality, educational background, and gender. Male and female international graduate students and alumni at U.S. schools were invited to complete the online survey. Results indicate that preferences of international students to choose a graduate school differ by gender and female students tend to choose a school on a different set of criteria compared to their male colleagues. Common challenges faced and preferences adopted in choosing a school identified by female graduate students are compiled, contrasted to male responses, and presented. Survey results discussed here can be directly applied by institutions to improve recruiting and retention of women graduate engineering students.

Introduction Importance of recruiting and retention of engineering students to keep up with workforce demand and technological advancements have been highlighted in several publications1-4 in the past. Institutions of higher learning are under tremendous pressure to improve recruitment to keep up with educational competence and better student outcomes such as retention and completion2. There are several factors that contribute towards increasing recruitment and retention including engineering image3, institutional administrators, faculty members and students themselves4. Understanding the diversity of engineering students and incorporating that in recruiting and retention efforts are very important to maintain diversity5. Evaluating challenges and preferences of female students and integrating in recruitment efforts will definitely help the institutions. Cultural and gender diversity among students in academic institutions and among employees in the corporate world brings different perspectives to the academic and corporate environment and substantially helps with the growth. Engineering students could be distinguished based on gender, nationality, regions, ethnicity and age group. International students play a major role in increasing the diversity of graduate engineering students and contribute in many ways6. Understanding challenges faced by international and minority students is critical for a successful graduate program7-9. Najafi et al. presented a typical global model to increase the enrollment of minority and international graduate students10.

Women are significantly underrepresented among engineering student population and have been a minority for several decades11. Several studies in the past have examined the lower number of female students in engineering and have discussed strategies to recruit and retain women students in science and engineering11-14. Globally, female professional scientists represent 25-35% of the research workforce15. As of 2006 data, approximately 20% of engineering students are female16. One theory regarding why females are represented in lower numbers, is a cultural influence that discourages participation in engineering area16. Some of the suggested solutions are providing tools and methods to female students for early exposure to

Srivastava, S., & Srivastava, A., & Minerick, A., & Schulz, N. (2010, June), Preferences And Challenges For Female Graduate Engineering Students: A Survey Based Study Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16726

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: © 2010 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