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Work in Progress: An Autoethnographic Account of a Female Engineering Intern

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 8

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Gretchen A. Dietz University of Florida

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Gretchen A. Dietz is a graduate student within Environmental Engineering Sciences at the University of Florida. Her research interests include diversity in engineering and qualitative methodologies.

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Kayla Julianna Kummerlen The University of Florida


Elliot P. Douglas University of Florida

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Elliot P. Douglas is Professor of Environmental Engineering Sciences and Engineering Education, and Distinguished Teaching Scholar at the University of Florida. His research interests are in the areas of problem-solving, cultures of inclusion in engineering, engineering ethics, and environmental justice.

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This paper is a work in progress (WIP) that explores the experiences of a female undergraduate engineer, Kayla, in both professional and academic settings. Studies have found that women who persist in engineering describe themselves as having engineering identity (Buse et al., 2013). According to Faulkner (2009a), however, the normative engineering culture tends to make working relationships easier for men than women, and women are “visible as women, yet invisible as engineers” (p. 169). This study focuses on the non-normative setting and culture of Kayla’s internship.

The work presented in this paper primarily examined her internship experiences with a company that “took pride in hiring female engineering graduates” and was “very accepting of women in engineering.” Two frameworks were used to explore Kayla’s workplace experiences: Faulkner’s (2009b) concept of in/authenticity and Godwin & Lee’s (2017) engineering identity framework. To understand Kayla’s workplace experiences, our methodology followed the autoethnographic steps outlined by Chang (2008).

Kayla experienced authenticity from the strong female presence within her internship, despite the fact the internship was conducted remotely due to COVID-19. During her internship, Kayla only had female supervisors. Her engineering identity was bolstered due to the presence of women; she felt more authentic as an engineer, and in turn, experienced less imposter syndrome compared to when she was surrounded by men in her undergraduate activities. The presence of so many other women made her feel “visible as an engineer and not a woman.” Even though Kayla could not meet these women in person, her engineering identity was positively impacted from having a female supervisor guiding her and hearing a woman host the weekly firm meetings. This has work demonstrated how having a strong female presence to guide an aspiring woman in engineering encouraged her to continue on this path and recognize her engineering identity.

References: Buse, K., Bilimoria, D., & Perelli, S. (2013). Why they stay: Women persisting in US engineering careers. Career Development International, 18(2), 139–154. Chang, H. (2008). Autoethnography as Method. Left Coast Press. Godwin, A., & Lee, W. (2017). A Cross-sectional Study of Engineering Identity During Undergraduate Education. 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings. 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. Faulkner, W. (2009). Doing gender in engineering workplace cultures. II. Gender in/authenticity and the in/visibility paradox. Engineering Studies, 1(3), 169–189. Faulkner, W. (2009b). Doing gender in engineering workplace cultures. II. Gender in/authenticity and the in/visibility paradox. Engineering Studies, 1(3), 169-189.

Dietz, G. A., & Kummerlen, K. J., & Douglas, E. P. (2021, July), Work in Progress: An Autoethnographic Account of a Female Engineering Intern Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--38121

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