June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Women in Engineering
22.1497.1 - 22.1497.17
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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