Asee peer logo

Women on the Two-year Transfer Pathway in Engineering

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

2-Year College Division: Students and the Pipeline

Tagged Division

Two-Year College

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Emily Knaphus-Soran University of Washington

visit author page

Emily Knaphus-Soran is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE) at the University of Washington. She works on the evaluation of several projects aimed at improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM fields. She also conducts research on the social-psychological and institutional forces that contribute to the persistence of race and class inequalities in the United States. Emily earned a PhD and MA in Sociology from the University of Washington, and a BA in Sociology from Smith College.

visit author page


Roberta Rincon Society of Women Engineers

visit author page

Dr. Roberta Rincon is the Senior Manager of Research with the Society of Women Engineers, where she oversees the organization’s research activities around issues impacting girls and women from elementary through college and into the engineering workforce. Before joining SWE, Roberta was a Senior Research and Policy Analyst at The University of Texas System, where she focused on student success and faculty teaching and research award programs across nine academic institutions. Roberta received her B.S. in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, an MBA and an M.S. in Information Management from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Planning from UT Austin.

visit author page

author page

Alexandra Schaefer University of Washington

Download Paper |


A 2017 study conducted by the Society of Women Engineers found that women on engineering and computer science (ECS) pathways at community colleges in Texas leave ECS majors at higher rates than men. As a result, less than two percent of women transfer students in this study selected an ECS major, and less than one percent of all Black, Hispanic, and White women transfer students earned an ECS bachelor’s degree (Rincon, 2017). Because two-year colleges serve large numbers of students from groups historically minoritized in STEM fields, and more women than men successfully transfer from two-year colleges to four-year universities, understanding the experiences of students in ECS at community colleges is an important part of increasing gender and racial/ethnic equity in these fields. The current study utilizes a mixed-methods approach to examine factors that may contribute to differential rates of attrition from ECS among men and women on the community college pathway, and identify individual experiences and structural/contextual circumstances that influence persistence in ECS for women. Our quantitative survey of over 300 students at three community colleges in Texas focuses on feelings of inclusion, self-efficacy, and confidence in ECS - three factors that are correlated with retention (Corbett & Hill, 2015). Our interviews with women on the ECS community college pathway build on our survey findings, providing additional insights into the success of women in ECS.

Consistent with research on undergraduate ECS students at four-year universities, preliminary survey findings suggest that students at two-year colleges who are from groups minoritized in STEM tend to have lower feelings of inclusion and self-efficacy in ECS, and less confidence with regard to math and science skills (Cheryan et al., 2017; Marra et al., 2009). However, women are slightly more likely than men to report intention to transfer to a four-year university, to pursue a career in engineering, and to pursue an engineering-related graduate degree. While these findings provide interesting descriptive information that speaks to the broader literature, none of the variations by group we observed are statistically significant. Further survey analyses and results from our qualitative analyses will help us identify additional factors that may contribute to differential rates of attrition, and features of the community college experience that could support more women in actualizing their intentions.

Data collection is still underway, but initial interviews indicate that some women who are non-traditionally-aged students are motivated to pursue a degree in engineering because they did not see engineering as an option that was open to them at a younger age, despite a passion for problem-solving or mathematics. These women see their life experience as a resource for themselves and for other students in their classes. Additional interviews will provide insights into the experience of more traditionally-aged students.

Knaphus-Soran, E., & Rincon, R., & Schaefer, A. (2020, June), Women on the Two-year Transfer Pathway in Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35586

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: © 2020 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