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Women in STEM: What Experiences Influence Decisions

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Stephany Coffman-Wolph University of Texas, Austin

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Dr. Stephany Coffman-Wolph is a Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Computer Science. Research interests include: Artificial Intelligence, Fuzzy Logic, Game Theory, Teaching Computer Science, Outreach of STEM, Women in STEM, and Software Engineering.

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Kimberlyn Gray West Virginia University Inst. of Tech.

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Dr. Kimberlyn Gray is an Assistant Professor at West Virginia University Institute of Technology in the department of Chemical Engineering. She coordinated STEM outreach for the Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering and Sciences.

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In the United States the number of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degrees earned by women is extremely low: 19.2% in engineering, 18.2% in computer science, 58.2% in biosciences, and 43.1% in mathematics1. XXXXXXXXX University has recently started a program to increase mentoring to young women in STEM fields on campus in hopes of increasing the number of women graduating in the programs. This paper will explore and assess the experiences of female undergrad students in STEM fields, including those who changed majors within the STEM fields or out of the STEM fields using anonymous surveys with a focus on gaining insight into why some female students leave STEM fields (particularly engineering). Data will be analyzed for recurring themes among the students in their experiences both positive and negative (e.g., moments they thought they wanted to quit, experiences that caused them to feel they could or could not achieve a STEM degree, what changed their mind about staying, or what event caused them to switch to a different field). Though this research the authors’ hope to gain insight into why some female students leave STEM fields and others stay. The goal of this paper is to correlate experiences of the female students with their subsequent actions on completing a STEM degree (or not). The hope is to pinpoint specific actions universities, colleges, and STEM based organizations can take to decrease the loss of female talent within the STEM fields. Additionally, this research hopes to illuminate experiences that encouraged females to remain in the STEM fields, add these actions to women mentoring programs at the university, and, thus, help future generations of women college students.

[1] National Science Foundation, Division of Sciences Resources Statistics. “Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering,” NSF 15-311, Arlington, VA, 2015.

Coffman-Wolph, S., & Gray, K. (2018, June), Women in STEM: What Experiences Influence Decisions Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31257

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