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The Impact of COVID-19 on Women Engineers in Academia

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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

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Women in Engineering

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Roberta Rincon Society of Women Engineers

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Dr. Roberta Rincon is the Associate Director of Research with the Society of Women Engineers, where she oversees the organization’s research activities around issues impacting girls and women from elementary through college and into the engineering workforce. Before joining SWE, Roberta was a Senior Research and Policy Analyst at The University of Texas System, where she focused on student success and faculty teaching and research award programs across nine academic institutions. Roberta received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, an MBA and an M.S. in Information Management from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Planning from UT Austin.

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COVID-19 has upended the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, introducing an historic level of uncertainty in our everyday lives. While it is unclear what the impact will be on diversity in the engineering and technology sectors, we are beginning to see concerning signs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the higher education workforce has shrunk by at least 7% since February 2020 – a drop not seen in the over 60 years that the agency has tracked such data (1). The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center indicates that fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment is down 2.5% over a year ago, with most students taking courses remotely (2).

Our recent survey of women in engineering, conducted in the summer of 2020, explores the impact of the pandemic on their college, career, and personal situations. We found that students who had received summer 2020 job offers had had those offers rescinded or postponed and almost half were concerned that the pandemic would delay their graduation date. One out of four engineering graduates indicated that their job offers had been rescinded or postponed. Over half of non-tenure track faculty expressed concerns about losing their jobs before December 2020. Half of women engineering faculty, both tenure/tenure track and non-tenure track, reported high levels of dissatisfaction with work-life balance.

Our survey responses included over 500 students and over 80 engineering faculty, researchers, and graduate research assistants, sharing their experiences on employer responses to COVID-19 and work-life balance challenges.

1) Bauman, D. (2020, October 6). The pandemic has pushed hundreds of thousands of workers out of higher education. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2) Douglas-Gabriel, D. (2020, September 23). College enrollment takes a hit this fall amid coronavirus. The Washington Post.

Rincon, R. (2021, July), The Impact of COVID-19 on Women Engineers in Academia Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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