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Vulnerable Heroes: Problematizing Metaphors of Male Socialization in Engineering

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Conference

2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015

ISBN

978-0-692-50180-1

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division: Student Issues as Related to Culture

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count

24

Page Numbers

26.1711.1 - 26.1711.24

DOI

10.18260/p.25047

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/25047

Download Count

95

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Paper Authors

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Prashant Rajan Iowa State University

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Charles T. Armstrong Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Elizabeth J. O'Connor Ketchum Change

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Patrice Marie Buzzanell Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-0058-7676

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Patrice M. Buzzanell is a Professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication and the School of Engineering Education (courtesy) at Purdue University. Editor of three books and author of over 150 articles and chapters, her research centers on the intersections of career, gender communication, leadership, and resilience. Fellow and past president of the International Communication Association, she has received numerous awards for her research, teaching/mentoring, and engagement. She is working on Purdue-ADVANCE initiatives for institutional change, the Transforming Lives Building Global Communities (TLBGC) team in Ghana through EPICS, and individual engineering ethical development and team ethical climate scales as well as everyday negotiations of ethics in design through NSF funding as Co-PI. [Email: buzzanel@purdue.edu]

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Rebecca L. Dohrman Maryville University

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Rebecca Dohrman (Ph.D. Organizational Communication, Purdue University) is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Maryville University - St. Louis.

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Colleen Arendt Fairfield University

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William C. Oakes Purdue University, West Lafayette

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William (Bill) Oakes is the Director of the EPICS Program and one of the founding faculty members of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has held courtesy appointments in Mechanical, Environmental and Ecological Engineering as well as Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. He is a registered professional engineer and on the NSPE board for Professional Engineers in Higher Education. He has been active in ASEE serving in the FPD, CIP and ERM. He is the past chair of the IN/IL section. He is a fellow of the Teaching Academy and listed in the Book of Great Teachers at Purdue University./ He was the first engineering faculty member to receive the national Campus Compact Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning. He was a co-recipient of the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education and the recipient of the National Society of Professional Engineers’ Educational Excellence Award and the ASEE Chester Carlson Award. He is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

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Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Carla B. Zoltowski, Ph.D., is Co-Director of the EPICS Program at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in engineering education, all from Purdue University. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Zoltowski’s academic and research interests include human-centered design learning and assessment, service-learning, ethical reasoning development and assessment, leadership, and assistive technology.

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Abstract

Vulnerable heroes: Problematizing metaphors of male socialization in engineeringBackgroundImproved mentoring and socialization of female students is critical for increasing theirparticipation and advancement in engineering disciplines and careers. Mentoringscholarship and practice have evolved over time in response to changes in thedemographic backgrounds and motivations of females entering engineering disciplines.For example, research has demonstrated that spotlighting, the singling out of women bygender in ways that make them uncomfortable, may lead undergraduate women engineersto experience challenges related to gender-bias even when the programmatic intention isto help women. Yet, the enduring academic and anecdotal image of male engineers’mentoring circumstances and socialization experiences is of a heroic journey. Maleengineering students are constructed as heroic protégés who are tested by stoic mentorson their ability to handle stressful situations and accomplish tasks independently withoutnurturing or care. Tasks are typically interpreted under the heroic metaphor as challengesthat emphasize individual achievement over cooperation. Such challenges presumablyleverage the instrumental and technical motivations of male engineers who prioritizeindividual achievement over collaborative endeavors that would require integration intolarger groups. The heroic metaphor suggests that male engineers are independent actorswho engage in solitary efforts that are driven by instrumental and technical self-interest.StudyWe interrogated the value of such simplistic framing of male engineers’ mentoringexperiences by interviewing 25 domestic and international male engineeringundergraduate, graduate students and post-graduate scholars at a large public universityin the United States about their mentoring relationships, work experiences, and careerdecision-making. Participants represented diverse socioeconomic, ethnic and nationalbackgrounds. Our effort follows on the premise that investigating how men possess andperform gender differently is important for rendering visible the heterogeneity ofcontemporary male experiences with mentorship and careers. We analyzed howparticipants’ varied articulations of their mentoring experiences related to their careerdiscourses. Analyses of transcribed interview data followed the inductive method ofconstant comparison and were guided by the criteria of recurrence, repetition, andforcefulness.ResultsOur analyses indicate that male engineers’ perceptions of mentoring may be analyzed interms of: (a) the interactivity of their mentoring relationships, and, (b) the extent to whichthey integrate task and relational aspects of mentoring. Male engineers’ varieddescriptions of mentoring relationships included observations of individuals sans directinteraction, and, close relationships that involved direct and frequent interactions. Amongparticipants who described direct interactions, variations were observed betweenengineers who compartmentalized mentoring relationships as task-focused, relationship-centered, or integrative of both task and relational aspects. We present a two-dimensionaltypology of mentoring mindsets that combine the extent of integration and interactivity tolocate participants’ conceptualizations of actual and potential mentoring relationships.We argue that the extent of integration in relational and task-oriented terms and the levelof interactivity in mentoring relationships reflect dialectical tensions articulated byparticipants in their career discourses. Male engineers interpret engineering careers asbeing simultaneously constraining and liberating. They aspire to financial prosperity incareers that are perceived as a narrow, constraining paths along which only limitedopportunities for self-fulfillment and creative expression may exist. They express apathyfor societal norms and expectations even as they seek career opportunities that might helpthem impact society in a positive manner. Male engineers decry the inadequacy of formaleducation in enabling genuine collaboration, and value collaborative work experiencesafforded by their education. It is well established that the culture of engineering isproblematic for females. Examining contemporary career discourses of male engineerssuggests that stereotypical, masculinist and individualistic discourses that permeateengineering can be problematic and constraining for men and women.!

Rajan, P., & Armstrong, C. T., & O'Connor , E. J., & Buzzanell, P. M., & Dohrman, R. L., & Arendt, C., & Oakes, W. C., & Zoltowski, C. B. (2015, June), Vulnerable Heroes: Problematizing Metaphors of Male Socialization in Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25047

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015