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The Gender Bias Dynamic Between Students and Female Faculty in the Engineering Classroom Through Autoethnography

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 7

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Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Eleanor Leung York College of Pennsylvania

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Dr. Eleanor Leung is an assistant professor with the Electrical and Computer Engineering program of York College of Pennsylvania. Her research area is in wireless communications focusing on space-time block coding and the design of signal constellations. Her technical research area is in wireless communications focusing on space-time block coding and the design of signal constellations. She is also doing research work focused on active and collaborative learning in engineering education. Eleanor has a B.S in Electrical Engineering from the University of Calgary and both a M.Eng and a Ph.D in Electrical Engineering from McMaster University.

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Inci Ruzybayev York College of Pennsylvania

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Inci Ruzybayev is Assistant Professor in Engineering and Computer Science at York College of Pennsylvania

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Brandy Maki Minnesota State University, Mankato Orcid 16x16

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Brandy is an electrical engineer who serves students of Minnesota State University's Bell Program. She has prior experience in the electronics manufacturing industry, automotive industry, and process control. She aims to push the limits--of engineering education, of what humanity can accomplish, of what one educator (alone and together with a network) can do to promote, encourage, and improve the education of our future engineers. Her vision of the future is a community of humans, living well, not only on Earth but on other spherical lands inside and outside of our solar system. The future is bright and filled not only with humans living in harmony with nature but also utilizing technology in such a way as to promote a strong future, growing intelligence and curiosity, strengthening the health and happiness of humanity as well as the Earth.

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In academia, many female faculty still face the challenges of socially constructed gender stereotypes and biases. One instance of such biases, whether deliberate or unconscious, includes women being held to a different and more rigorous standard by their students, colleagues and senior administration compared with their male counterparts. As a result, feelings of imposter syndrome, being overworked and not fitting in are all too common for female faculty to experience in today’s higher education settings. Does gender bias against female faculty by students, both male and female, also carry over into the classroom?

Faculty strive to create an inclusive, supportive and stimulating learning environment where students are challenged in their problem-solving ability but also are comfortable to “fail” and learn from their mistakes. Thus, the interaction between the student and faculty is crucial to support the learning. Gender bias and stereotypes can hinder the instructor’s teaching ability and student’s ability to learn. Research has shown that female instructors tend to be judged more severely by their students. Students tend to request more special considerations and favor from a female instructor compared to a male one. This puts the instructor in a difficult situation which could lead to having a higher workload, lower course evaluations and an emotional strain on their mental health. However, if the student-instructor interaction is cultivated to be more open, personable and motivating it can improve the learning environment. Gaining the respect of the male students and developing a role model relationship with female students are positive examples of overcoming some of the gender bias challenges.

In this paper, three female engineering faculty will use autoethnography to explore their past and present teaching experiences. Using the current literature on gender bias in engineering and academia, the authors will identify the challenges they have faced and ways to improve the learning environment in engineering classrooms.

Leung, E., & Ruzybayev, I., & Maki, B. (2020, June), The Gender Bias Dynamic Between Students and Female Faculty in the Engineering Classroom Through Autoethnography Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35325

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