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Work in progress — Why many smart women leave engineering: A preliminary study of how engineering students form career goals

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5 Author(s)

This study examined how undergraduate engineering students form career goals. We hypothesized that a student's development of an engineering identity might be correlated with that student's persistence in engineering. We focused on four areas: (a) motivations for studying engineering, (b) engineering-related experiences, (c) fit perceptions, and (d) engineering-related self-efficacy. We employed a mixed-methods approach: we surveyed all engineering freshmen, and we conducted eight single-sex focus group interviews (one male and one female group at each of four college levels). A total of 1351 (19% female, 81% male) engineering freshmen and 42 (60% female, 40% male) focus group members participated in the study. Statistical analysis of the survey data showed that freshman female engineering students tended to have significantly lower self-efficacy than freshman male engineering students, although they tended to have higher outcome expectations than their male counterparts. Preliminary analysis of the qualitative data provided evidence that for both men and women, out-of class experiences such as internships, design projects, and participation in student organizations tended to increase engagement and commitment to engineering as a profession.

Published in:

2010 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE)

Date of Conference:

27-30 Oct. 2010