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The effects of gender and URM status on the engineering professional identity of upper-year engineering students

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Sara Atwood Elizabethtown College

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Dean of the School of Engineering, Math, and Computer Science and Associate Professor of Engineering at Elizabethtown College in central Pennsylvania. Dr. Atwood has been at Elizabethtown since 2010 after obtaining a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, and an BA and MS in Engineering at Dartmouth College. She is passionate about integrating liberal arts and engineering, alternative assessment approaches, and broadening participation in engineering education and the workforce.

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Shannon Gilmartin Stanford University


Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University

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This quantitative research paper seeks to answer two research questions focusing on upper-year students who have been retained in engineering programs: 1) Do the components of engineering professional identity vary by students’ gender and URM status? And 2) For women and URM students, if some components of identity are lower, are others higher? This analysis is situated in the final years of a larger NSF-funded study focusing on the professional identity of upper-year engineering students as they enter the workforce, and the impacts of internship experiences on engineering professional identity particularly for first-generation, low-income students. The work is based on the three-component Performance/Competence, Interest, Recognition (PCIR) framework of identity. Data were drawn from a 2015 multi-institutional nationally representative survey of engineering juniors and seniors (n = 6191 from 27 institutions). Three identity measures (Competence Beliefs, Engineering Career Interest, and Interpersonal Recognition) were operationalized from existing items on the survey. A series of statistical analyses examine how the identity measures vary by gender and by URM status. These analyses include two-sample independent t-tests, a one-way ANOVA on intersecting identities, and linear regression models controlling for covariates such as GPA, class standing, college experiences, field of engineering, and institution type. Results indicate that competence beliefs and engineering career interests vary by students’ gender but not URM status, while URM status becomes the more important predictor for interpersonal recognition when considering covariates. Considering the intersection of gender and URM status did not change these trends. Furthermore, the data suggest that women and URM students have lower competence beliefs and engineering career interests but may compensate by seeking out interactions that result in higher interpersonal recognition.

Atwood, S., & Gilmartin, S., & Sheppard, S. (2022, August), The effects of gender and URM status on the engineering professional identity of upper-year engineering students Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--41928

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