June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Women in Engineering
In this research, we investigated the role empathy plays in women’s choice of major with particular emphasis on engineering disciplines. We began by formulating a survey instrument that measured the level of empathy of the survey participant, the perceived level of empathy of various academic disciplines, the likelihood of majoring in a discipline, and the perception of empathy among the faculty and fellow students within their current major, along with demographic information. To measure the level of empathy of an individual, we used a modified form of the Empathizing/Systematizing Quotient (EQ-SQ) developed by Simon Baron-Cohen. We obtained 517 valid responses to the survey. Of those responses, 46% were female. In addition, 257 were STEM majors with 231 of those being engineering majors. Of the engineering majors, 69 were female. Results from this survey indicate that 1) women are more empathetic than men, 2) students in engineers and STEM majors are less empathetic than those in non-STEM majors, 3) engineering disciplines are perceived as less empathetic than other majors, and 4) empathy is negatively correlated with choosing engineering as a major.
Following these quantitative results, we have designed a qualitative focus group study to delve deeper into some of the reasons behind the quantitative results. The focus groups were women in STEM (non-engineering) disciplines, women in engineering disciplines, and women in non-STEM disciplines. These studies are ongoing but to date, we have had three engineering women and two non-STEM women participate in the study. Using thematic analysis, an early result emerging from this part of the study is the role that fathers and math teachers play in the choices women make to study engineering. This role can be positive and affirming and cited as a key reason for majoring in engineering. It can also be negative and repressing and cited as a key reason for not majoring in engineering.
Jacobs, E., & de Jongh Curry, A. L., & Astorne-Figari, C., & Deaton, R. J., & Salem, W. M., & Xu, Y. J., & Roberts, S. G. (2019, June), The Role of Empathy in Choosing Majors Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33420
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