June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Women in Engineering
22.1696.1 - 22.1696.10
Women as the Miner’s Canary in Undergraduate Engineering EducationIn this paper, we will examine the metaphor of the Miner’s Canary as it relates to undergraduatewomen majoring in engineering at a large, Midwestern university. Lani Guinier, Gerald Torresand Susan Sturm (2005) have posited the idea that the metaphor of the Miner’s Canary is animportant metaphor for viewing the behavior of those in minority groups in institutions or careerfields. These scholars compare the behavior of minority groups in certain environments to thebehavior of the canary miner’s used to carry with them as an early warning signal (Guinier,2005). Since the canary has a more fragile respiratory system than humans, it is more sensitive tochange in the quality of air in an environment. When the canary would begin to struggle forbreath, the miners took this as a signal that there was a problem with the atmosphere in the mine(Guinier, 2005). Guinier and colleagues (2005) encouraged faculty and administrators to look atthe behavior of minority groups within an institution as sensitive indicators to potentially toxicproblems (Guinier, 2005). By using minority group behavior as a diagnostic tool tounderstanding and analyzing the reactions of minority groups, faculty and administration canbegin to understand the ways in which admissions criteria, pedagogy, curriculum, andinstitutional environments need to be changed to not only support the needs of the minoritygroups but make the environment healthier for all (Guinier, 2005). Women are approximately18% of all undergraduate students in engineering nationally, and 20% of the engineering studentbody at this large Midwestern university. These percentages have remained relatively flat for thelast 10 – 15 years, despite years of national and international research as to the cause of women’sunderrepresentation in engineering, and increasing numbers of programs and activities intendedto improve women’s representation in engineering studies. This paper will explore evidence thatindicates the collective behavior of women majoring in engineering at this institution could bemore sensitive to correlated institutional change. It appears that women’s collective behaviorsare more amplified with respect to correlated positive and negative events at this institution. Byusing the metaphor of the Miner’s Canary in looking at women’s behavior at this institution, thispaper seeks to establish that women engineering students’ collective behavior is a leadingindicator of important issues that impact all students in engineering education.
Holloway, B. M., & Reed-Rhoads, T., & Groll, L. (2011, June), Women as the Miner's Canary in Undergraduate Engineering Education Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18958
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