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A Researcher's-Eye View: Women Students, Technical Majors, and Retention

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Information about women in technical majors is almost non-existent. That fact plus the need for more data motivated this research. The sample was all women who entered the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology between 1961 and 1970. A male comparison sample with academic ability/achievement levels equivalent to those of the women was also selected. Data gathered included pre-entrance interest, ability, and personality measures; persistence records in I.T.; and the responses to a questionnaire returned by 70% of all subjects. The data analyses in Phase One showed the women to be a high ability group with higher achievement in mathematics and the sciences than in English and social studies. In comparison to the men, their interests are broader and more likely to stem from childhood. The women were also more likely to make career decisions earlier than the men. Both the men and women agreed that the stereotype of a coed in a technical major is a negative one. Phase Two of the analyses revealed that 30% of the women compared to 50% of the men persisted. A factor in the women's higher withdrawal rate is the perceived inflexibility of the curriculum in relationship to their broader interests. Phase Three focused on women in engineering. Most of the findings about all women also applied to women in engineering. The questionnaire data, however, showed some unique characteristics for this group.

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Education, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:18 ,  Issue: 1 )