July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Women in Engineering and Environmental Engineering
Environmental decline is accelerating worldwide, underscoring the need for transformation of the way broader society engages in the climate crisis. Who among engineering students is preparing to enter this problem space and lead change? This study represents a first step in defining the “people space” surrounding the problem space at an early workforce moment: the transition from college to work.
Our particular interest is in the gendered and racialized components of this workforce moment. The severity of climate decline is gendered and racialized, as are the factors driving it. In addition, environmental engineering sees among the highest percentage of women among degree-earners relative to other engineering fields, and among the highest percentage of women from underrepresented racial/ethnic minority (URM) backgrounds in engineering, although the number of URM women pursuing environmental engineering degrees is small. Against the backdrop of social and structural inequality, environmental decline, and degree attainment patterns, we consider how diverse groups of women are positioned for leadership in the field.
Our research questions are: What are environmental engineering students’ graduate school and job intentions during college? What are their graduate school and job destinations 1-3 years post-graduation? How do intentions and destinations vary by students’ gender and race/ethnicity? We examine students’ career pathways in other majors to contextualize patterns.
Data come from the longitudinal, NSF-funded Engineering Majors Survey (EMS). The first wave of EMS (EMS 1.0) was administered at a nationally representative sample of 27 U.S. engineering schools in 2015. A second wave was administered to 1.0 respondents in 2016, and a third wave, in 2017. Our focal baseline sample is composed of 75 1.0 respondents who marked that they were environmental engineering majors, 568 respondents marking civil engineering majors (our “peer” major), and 5,360 respondents majoring in other engineering fields. Our focal longitudinal sample is smaller, requiring more of a “case study” approach among environmental engineering graduates (longitudinal sample size in other fields is sufficient for statistical analysis).
Preliminary findings show that environmental engineering majors are less certain about attending graduate school, less likely to consider pursuing an MBA, and more likely to consider pursuing a JD relative to other engineering majors. They are more likely to consider employment in government/non-profit agencies and less likely to have start-up intentions compared with other majors. While “all” environmental engineering women appear to be less interested in corporate jobs than are men, this is not the case for our small sample of URM women, nearly all of whom were targeting corporate employment. Environmental engineering women are less likely than men to talk with peers and faculty about professional options, a gender difference not observed in other majors.
Our discussion connects these results to access and equity initiatives in environmental engineering education. We consider how our findings can inform teaching and learning for effective early career practice and future leadership. We explore opportunities for leadership modules in core environmental engineering classes that focus on not only the environmental problem space, but gender and racial equality in the people space surrounding it.
Gilmartin, S. K., & Harris, A., & Martin-Ebosele, C., & Sheppard, S. (2021, July), Who will Lead Us Out of Climate Crisis? Gender, Race, and Early Career Pathways in Environmental Engineering Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38058
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