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University And Personal Factors That Hinder Or Assist Women In Completing A Degree In Engineering

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Issues of Persistence in Engineering

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1299.1 - 14.1299.22



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Paper Authors

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Rose Mary Cordova-Wentling University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Cristina Camacho University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

University and Personal Factors that Hinder and Assist Women When Completing a Degree in Engineering


Research on women in engineering confirms the presence of gender barriers that affect their recruitment and retention. These barriers stop some women from choosing engineering as a field of study, and impede some women from completing a degree in engineering. However, there are some young female students who complete their engineering education despite the presence of obstacles throughout their college years. This study addressed the university and personal factors that have hindered, motivated, and assisted women who were graduating with a degree in engineering. By studying and understanding the barriers that hinder women in completing a degree in engineering, as well as the factors that assist and encourage them, we can learn how to break down the barriers and how to facilitate the educational journey of female engineering students.


In the U.S. Technical occupations increase almost 5 percent per year, whereas the rest of the labor force is growing at just over 1 percent per year (National Science Foundation, 2004). The 2004 Science and Engineering Indicators report from the National Science Foundation (NSF) indicates that there is a “troubling decline in the number of U.S. citizens who are training to become scientists and engineers, whereas the number of jobs requiring science and engineering (S&E) training continues to grow” (p.1). “If trends continue the United States will lose its ability to fill the growing demand for science and engineering jobs, yielding [its] global standing to nations such as China and India who are training thousands more engineers and scientists than is the U.S.” (O’Brien, 2004, p. 1). Furthermore, it was noted that in 2004 the U.S. graduated approximately 70,000 undergraduate engineers, while China graduated 600,000 and India 350,000 (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2005) projects that by 2010, 50 percent of all U.S. workers will be women. This projection, plus the growth in the science and engineering labor force, and the shortage of technically skilled workers show the importance and need of having women training to become scientists and engineers. Unfortunately, women have been and continue to be a minority in engineering related fields. In 1971, only 0.8% of the bachelor’s degrees earned in engineering were obtained by female students. In 2006, the number went up to 19% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005-2006). Despite the increase in the number of women obtaining degrees in engineering, women are still underrepresented in engineering, with only 8.5 percent of the U.S. engineers being female (U.S. Department of Labor, 2006).

In 1970, of the 7.4 million students who enrolled in college, 4.4 million were men, and 3.0 million women. By 1980, out of 11.4 million students enrolled in college, more than half of the students were women (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005-2006). This coincides with the fact that in the 1980s people started working towards admitting more women to colleges (Anderson, 2002). Since the 1980s, overall, the number of women enrolled in college has always been higher than

Cordova-Wentling, R. M., & Camacho, C. (2009, June), University And Personal Factors That Hinder Or Assist Women In Completing A Degree In Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4542

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