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Women’s Motivation to Pursue Engineering Education and Careers: a Case Study of Malaysia

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

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

Diversity

Page Count

22

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/31259

Download Count

20

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Paper Authors

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S. Zahra Atiq Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Zahra Atiq is a PhD candidate at the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is interested in learning about the non-cognitive/affective and individual/demographic factors that impacts students in STEM courses. Specifically, she is interested in understanding the emotions students’ experience while learning computer programming. She is interested to understand women's participation in computer science and engineering.

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Sarah Morton

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Nehal I. Abu-lail Washington State University

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Nehal I. Abu-Lail received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2004. She is an Assistant Professor at the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering at Washington State University since August of 2006. Her research is focused on fundamental understanding of physiochemical cellular properties and interactions in environmental and biological systems. She has published over 50 technical articles and presented her research in over 200 national meetings. Her research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of health (NIH) and 3M. She is currently teaching the Transport Phenomena and Current Topics in Bionanotechnology courses.

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Ashley Ater Kranov Washington State University

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Dr. Ashley Ater Kranov is an adjunct associate professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Washington State University.

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Julie A. Kmec Washington State University

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Julie A. Kmec is a Professor of Sociology at Washington State University. Her research focuses on workplace gender and race inequality. She has published articles on gender differences in work effort, family caregiving penalties at work, the glass ceiling, and human resource practice effects on employment discrimination disputes. She is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Sociology Compass. She serves on the editorial boards of Social Science Research, Research in the Sociology of Work, and Work & Occupations.

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Jennifer DeBoer Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Jennifer DeBoer is currently Assistant Professor of Engineering Education and Mechanical Engineering (by courtesy) at Purdue University. Her research focuses on international education systems, individual and social development, technology use and STEM learning, and educational environments for diverse learners.

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Abstract

Women in PMCs typically experience social, political, and economic restrictions and have more circumscribed areas within which they function publically. Despite these restrictions, women in some PMCs are participating in engineering in very high proportions compared to the United States. One example of a PMC with high participation of women in engineering is Malaysia. Malaysia Government promises equal and fair treatment for all employees irrespective of gender and religious affiliations, yet women still face challenges at work [1]. Even then Malaysia boasts about 30 – 40% of women engineering graduates [2]. Moreover, there is a near gender parity in enrollment in certain sub-fields of engineering in Malaysia (e.g., chemical, industrial, and computer engineering), in some cases, with more women enrolled in these fields compared to men, which makes Malaysia an interesting case to study. Given this scenario, what can be learned from female engineers in Malaysia—those in training as students and in practice as professionals in academia and in industry? Specifically, our research question is: What motivates women in Malaysia to choose and persist in engineering as a curricular and/or career path?

In this paper, we present emergent themes from a case study of women in Malaysia. We use a case study research design [3], employing focus group interviews for data collection and the constant comparative method for data analysis [4]. We purposively sampled a partner institution (University Teknologi Malaysia – UTM) because of its status as a major engineering flagship public university. We consider three embedded units of analysis: undergraduate students, faculty, and practicing engineers. We collected data from 19 undergraduate students, 22 faculty, and 16 practicing engineers. The focus group interviews were conducted in English, took place at the UTM campus, and were led by one member of the US research team along with a local faculty member or research assistant, who was present to help interpret or translate questions in Malay if necessary. The focus group interviews were audio recorded and transcribed and/or translated into English.

Some preliminary themes have emerged, which suggest that women generally pursue engineering education and careers because engineering is considered a prestigious career in Malaysia and because it is financially lucrative. In terms of support, women generally find support to pursue engineering from male members of their family. On the other hand, women face challenges in engineering training and work, especially in navigating work-life balance and their dual roles in their families and at their workplace. Our research findings from the Malaysian case can help researchers understand the landscape of engineering for women in Malaysia, with potential implications for women in other PMCs and the USA. Our work may also subsequently inform institutional and national programs to help sustain and augment women’s participation in engineering.

References [1] “International Labour Organization,” 2017. [2] “UIS Statistics,” 2015. [Online]. Available: http://data.uis.unesco.org/. [Accessed: 17-Jul-2015]. [3] R. K. Yin, Case Study Research: Design and Methods, 5th ed. SAGE Publications, 2014. [4] Y. S. Lincoln and E. G. Guba, Naturalistic inquiry. 1985.

Atiq, S. Z., & Morton, S., & Abu-lail, N. I., & Ater Kranov, A., & Kmec, J. A., & DeBoer, J. (2018, June), Women’s Motivation to Pursue Engineering Education and Careers: a Case Study of Malaysia Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/31259

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