Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
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
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