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Where are the women? Perceived Barriers to Engineering Education: Exploring the feminist influences on curriculum in British Columbia and on the career choices of women with high school physics credit

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Evaluation: Diversity in K-12 and Pre-college Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1734.1 - 26.1734.15



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Paper Authors


Katherina V Tarnai-Lokhorst P.Eng., FEC Camosun College Orcid 16x16

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Katherina Tarnai-Lokhorst, P.Eng., BASc, MBA, doctoral student

Kathy is a Mechanical Engineering Instructor at Camosun College. She received her BASc from UBC in 1987 specializing in aerodynamics and her MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2007. Kathy is pursuing her Doctor of Social Science at Royal Roads University, researching educational philosophies and practices prevalent in high school and introductory university physics and math courses, and developing recommendations to increase gender diversity in engineering education and the engineering profession. Kathy is an elected Councillor for APEGBC (the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia), has served on several educational and governance committees at Camosun College, and is a qualified restorative justice facilitator, peer coach and liturgical musician.

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AbstractThe population of engineers is in decline in Canada. While immigration is boosting the numbersand adding diversity to the mix, women are still severely underrepresented, even though manypost-secondary engineering programs are operating under capacity. The recruitment of womeninto these programs is a clear opportunity to meet industry demand for engineers, however, eventhough more young women are successfully completing high school physics classes than everbefore, they continue to choose careers other then engineering: finance, accounting,physiotherapy, and kinesiology are some of the programs receiving the majority of women wholeave high school with physics in their skill sets. Why are they choosing other careers thanengineering? What career options are promoted to young women? What are the culturalexpectations in terms of gendered careers? What are the perceived and real barriers to entry intoengineering education for young women? This paper explores what is happening today todissuade young women from choosing careers in engineering through the analysis ofethnographic data collected from women in Victoria, BC, Canada, who practice a variety ofcareers but all completed Physics 11, Physics 12, or both, in schools in British Columbia. Thisqualitative analysis identified women’s responses to the behaviour and attitudes in physicsclassrooms that tend to dissuade women from pursuing the topic. These findings apply to allgendered careers and build the foundational knowledge necessary for the next phase of proposedresearch: an action-oriented methodology designed to address response patterns prevalent in teencareer choices.

Tarnai-Lokhorst, K. V. (2015, June), Where are the women? Perceived Barriers to Engineering Education: Exploring the feminist influences on curriculum in British Columbia and on the career choices of women with high school physics credit Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25070

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