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The Right to Education for Female Engineering Students in Mexico: Cultural Considerations in their Retention

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session


Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1497.1 - 22.1497.17



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Paper Authors


Carmen G. Villa Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City

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Carmen Villa works at the College of Engineering at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City. She received a B.Sc. degree in Computer Science Engineering from Tec de Monterrey in Mexico City; a D.E.A. in Computer Science from the INPG in Grenoble, France; and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University. Her interest in education has grown out of her more than 15 years of teaching experience and her passion for equity in higher education. Her research interests include underrepresented populations in higher education, more specifically in STEM disciplines, and cultural practices and their impact on education for Hispanic students.

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Elsa Gonzalez Texas A&M University

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Elsa M. González y González is Visiting Assistant Professor and Research Associate in the department of Educational Administration and Human Resources at Texas A&M University. She is currently the Managing Editor of the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (QSE). She received her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2004, and her Master in Business Administration from the National University of Mexico (UNAM) in 1998. She teaches Naturalistic Inquiry, College Teaching and Administration in Higher Education in the graduate program, her research agenda includes higher education leadership, methodological issues in cross-language qualitative data analysis, and women in higher education.

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The Right to Education for Female Engineering Students in Mexico. Cultural Considerations in their RetentionAs part of a larger study examining the experiences of female engineering students in Mexico;the purpose of this study, was to explore how cultural considerations shape the experiences ofcollege women students that have persisted in engineering programs in Mexico. The percentageof women students in engineering is 24%; this percentage is still low compared to the percentageof women enrolled in higher education institutions in general which accounts for nearly 50%1 inMexico. It is thus important to understand the reasons for this difference and to analyze ifcultural factors among others shape the experiences and impact the retention of female collegestudents in engineering programs.Mexican culture has traditionally discouraged women from entering and succeeding inengineering professions2. Today inequalities in education are often masked as culturalexpectations where stereotypes concerning the roles of women still abound2. Dweck’s studies onmotivation examine the role of self-conceptions in motivations and self-regulation, and theirimpact on achievement3,4. These studies describe how female students seek effective solutions inthe face of difficulties and are less susceptible to stereotypes.Twenty female engineering students participated in this qualitative study; these women wereenrolled in at least their third year in selected colleges of engineering in Mexico, in both publicand private universities, and pursuing a variety of engineering majors (Computer, Mechanical,Industrial, and Civil Engineering.) Data came from three different sources: interviews withparticipants, on-site observations, and analysis of documents.Significant conclusions of this study include the role that Mexican culture plays in the studentexperience of the participants. This masculine culture manifests in the cultural and family valuesthat associate the female gender with inferiority and perceive women as caregivers. Participantsin this study describe the pressure they experienced to conform to these traditional roles.Overgeneralizations and stereotypes about women have permeated colleges of engineering suchas women’s low aptitude for math and science and female students seen as unfeminine, nerds andthe least attractive students across campus. Participants seem to embrace the engineering collegeculture and prove they belong to the field negotiating the cultural expectations of females inMexico using resistant strategies like academic success to become accepted in the male-dominated engineering environment.As results of this study it is recommended that when considering the under-representation ofwomen in engineering, institutions, faculty, and administrators need to be careful about over-generalization and assumptions of gender differences. Cultural values still lead to perceptionsand expectations of female behaviors and attitudes that can affect learning. However, as Muller5states, “men and women are more alike than they are different” (p. 3). An orientation towardpersonal development with good educational practices, focusing on the learning of all students,can help challenge social beliefs and stereotypes, and can benefit the learning of all students.

Villa, C. G., & Gonzalez, E. (2011, June), The Right to Education for Female Engineering Students in Mexico: Cultural Considerations in their Retention Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18952

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