June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Women in Engineering
23.1102.1 - 23.1102.27
Student Perceptions and Interest in Engineering: Effects of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Grade Level It is widely known that fewer women enroll in engineering degree programs and work inengineering fields than men. In order to address this issue, a two-pronged approach is needed tosimultaneously attract and retain more young women to, and in, these disciplines. In this study,student perception of STEM disciplines was assessed to determine where gaps in perception arethe greatest by gender. The confounding effects of student race/ethnicity and grade level ondifferences in student perception by gender were also examined. More than 6,000 middle and high school students (grades 5-12) and almost 2,000 first-year college students were surveyed to determine student interest and perceptions about theirabilities in 26 different STEM sub-disciplines (including 7 engineering sub-disciplines). Malemiddle and high school students reported a slightly higher level of confidence about their abilityto succeed in a STEM major, with a widening gap in the first-year college student population.Male students in both populations were at least twice as likely to respond that they were “veryinterested” in engineering majors, excluding Environmental Engineering. EnvironmentalEngineering still had a larger reported male interest, but it was not as exaggerated. Thedifference between male and female student responses was present at all grade levels (5th gradethrough first-year college), although some fields did exhibit a narrowing of the gap during theupper middle school years (such as Environmental Engineering, Computer Engineering and CivilEngineering). The computing fields, physics and space science were the only other STEM fieldsthat exhibited gender gaps that approached those observed for the engineering fields. Femalestudents, in both populations, were also much more likely than male students to respond “I don’tknow what it is” to questions asking about their interest in different engineering sub-disciplines. These gender gaps were not constant, however, when race/ethnicity was factored in.Larger gender differences (with male students indicating more interest) were noted for Caucasianand Native American students as compared to Hispanic, African American and Southeast Asianstudents. Indeed, female African American students expressed a higher interest in ChemicalEngineering than male African American students. Therefore, targeted strategies as a function ofstudent gender and race/ethnicity may need to be used to attract new students. Additionally,interventions to attract young women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups to engineeringneed to start early and continue throughout the K-12 years, in order to be truly effective. Furtherimplications of this study, as well as in-depth analysis of the results for each engineering sub-discipline, will also be addressed in the paper.
Sandrin, S., & Borror, C. M. (2013, June), Student Perceptions and Interest in Engineering: Effects of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Grade Level Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/22487
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