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“She’s More Like a Guy”: The Legacy of Gender Inequity Passed on to Undergraduate Engineering Students

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jeanne Christman Rochester Institute of Technology (CET) Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jeanne Christman is an Associate Professor and Associate Department Chair in the Department of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering Technology. She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering, an MS in Computer Science and a PhD in Curriculum, Instruction and the Science of Learning. Utilizing her educational background, her teaching specialty is digital and embedded system design and her research areas include engineering education culture, equity in engineering education and increasing diversity in STEM through transformation of traditional teaching methods.

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Randy Yerrick Fresno State University

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Randy Yerrick is Dean of the Kremen School for Education and Human Development at Fresno State University. He has also served as Professor of Science Education at SUNY Buffalo where he Associate Dean and Science Education Professor for the Graduate School of Education. Dr. Yerrick maintains an active research agenda focusing on two central questions: 1) How do scientific norms of discourse get enacted in classrooms and 2) To what extend can historical barriers to STEM learning be traversed for underrepresented students through expert teaching practices? For his efforts in examining science for the under-served, Dr. Yerrick has received numerous research and teaching awards including the Journal of Research in Science Teaching Outstanding Research Paper Award, Journal of Engineering Education “Wickenden Best Paper Award” (Honorable Mention), the Most Outstanding College Science Teacher Award from the Science Teacher Association of New York State, the Teaching Innovation Award from The State University of New York, and The STAR Award for Outstanding Mentoring. He has held fellowships in several organizations such as the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure, the San Diego State Center for Teaching and Learning, and has on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, served as their Director of Communications, and served for nearly 20 years as an Apple Distinguished Educator. Professor Yerrick is also a founding Member of the Science Educators for Equity, Diversity and Social Justice.

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Despite decades of effort to increase the number of female graduates in engineering, women remain vastly underrepresented in the discipline. As millions of dollars in recruitment and retention programs have failed to reverse the underrepresentation problem, we as engineering education researchers need to refocus our efforts. Too often research is framed in student deficits and does not include an examination of the culture in engineering. In light of inertia to change, we must better identify the root cause of sustained gender inequity. Many scholars argue it is time start re-examining the undergraduate engineering culture. This includes the pedagogical practices, long-standing traditions, and socialization of engineers steeped in male norms. In this research, we sought to identify the teaching methods and deeply entrenched beliefs that transmit inherent messages of a hierarchical discourse community; a community that is not friendly to women. To explore the barriers to engineering and the sorting mechanisms that lead to attrition of women from the field, we interviewed men and women engineering professors and students in three university engineering programs. Faculty and students alike identified and rationalized several time-honored engineering education practices that encouraged women to adopt a more masculine role, deeming them as necessary for success in a biased environment. In exploring the beliefs of engineering education insiders, the enculturation of women in engineering was evident in both the female faculty and students, with the female students being much more aware of the process than their faculty “role models.” We found evidence that enculturation of female faculty results in their failure to recognize the role culture plays in maintaining a dearth of women engineering students. Finally, we found that professors’ beliefs are echoed in the accounts of students, which leads to the perpetuation of many practices that alienate women.

Christman, J., & Yerrick, R. (2021, July), “She’s More Like a Guy”: The Legacy of Gender Inequity Passed on to Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36536

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