Writing the W into Engineering Pre-Forum Resource Book
Thank you for your commitment to joining us, leading diversity thinkers,
industry leaders, engineers, and academia September 14-15 for the Writing
the W into Engineering Forum. We are excited to hear diverse insights and
perspectives from attendees as we critically deconstruct the deeply
entrenched issues impeding gender equity in engineering which are
maintained through policies, procedures, and everyday actions.
The open forum and unrestricted Q&A will push us to truly examine self,
individually and collectively, through a critical lens as we push for an
inclusive environment and change of climate.
To ensure we are adequately prepared for critical dialogue, we have
organized a resource book, a collection of literature, for popular education.
It is organized as a spool of sources and ideologies challenging us to think
analytically about systems of power within Engineering and our three forum
topics. The literature includes work published by our dynamic forum
speakers and sources that have influenced their paradigms.
We hope you take advantage and come fully prepared to engage and
evoke revolutionary wisdom as we create the BluePrint for Action.
Writing the W
Writing the W into Engineering Solutions Forum
In-Depth Conversation about bringing Women and Engineering into a more Productive
September 14-15, 2016
Forum Overview and Goals
“Writing the W into Engineering” aims to be a difference-maker in addressing why
gender equity in engineering has been so difficult. We will candidly discuss practices
and issues, successes and failures of business and academia to make engineering
rewarding and attractive to women as lifetime careers. The agenda is curated from
more than six months of intensive roundtable conversations across the US. Topics
taboo and formerly pushed under the table surfaced as elements essential to dramatic
Engineering’s culture is broadly and specifically the problem.
Individual change, not organizational change, is the difference-maker.
Decisions to opt-in are as important as choices to opt-out.
Both men and women quickly embed in problematic culture values.
“I have to change” must replace “That’s the way it is.”
The Forum will encourage broad and piercing discussion of these and other issues in
open discussion, innovative approaches and documented going-forward plans.
Additionally, the Forum will enable participants to stress-test their own approaches
through the supportive critique of other participants and facilitators. Those in the private
sector will have a better understanding of government policy development, while those
in education and the public sector will gain a deeper insight of the needs of businesses.
Participants will develop the BluePrint for Action. The Forum will be proactively focused
on movement and action. We want it to be kinetic. We believe this word describes, on
many levels, what we are trying to achieve.
Table of Contents:
1. Man Up: Why Men?
a. How The U.N.'s #HeForShe Initiative Is Tackling Gender
b. Top 10 Ways to be a Male Advocate for Technical women
c. Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What change agents need to know
2. Difference Makes Me Strong: The resiliency of individuality
a. Intersectionality and STEM : The Role of Race and Gender in the
Academic Pursuits of African American Women in STEM
b. Inside the Double Bind: A Synthesis of Empirical Research on
Undergraduate and Graduate Women of Color in Science, Technology,
Engineering, and Mathematics
c. Let the Sister speak
d. Women of Color in Stem Fields
3. Why so few? It’s an” And” world. Attract and retain the best
a. Comparison of women engineers who persist in or depart from
engineering’ Journal of Vocational Behavior
b. Embracing Diversity: Showing Students the Pathway
c. Sexual Discrimination and Women's Retention Rates in Science and
d. Attracting More Women to Study STEM in A World Full of Geek Dude
5. Additional Sources
1.Man Up: Why Men?
Session Outcome: The Forum will examine how personal accountability is the key for growing gender
equity in the engineering disciplines. It will be a complex and highly charged examination of why those
who sustain the culture must step up to change it, person by person. The Forum will highlight examples
of how men can accelerate change and make a difference. The candid and open dialogue will highlight
how individuals can make personal immediate commitment to change their behaviors and the behaviors
of other key influencers in their organization.
Aim: We would like panelist to share their views on the importance of individual and personal
accountability with a specific focus on de-bunking the myths about women in engineering. Panel
participants will identify and share best practices for holding individuals and organizations accountable for
sustainable transformative actions, behaviors and explore new possibilities through collective
engagement. The goal of the discussion is to ensure there is a collective understanding male engineers
need to embrace personal responsibility.
Key point to consider: Everyone plays a vital role. We would like to hear stories from the audience on
best practices and its limitations.
1a. How The U.N.'s #HeForShe Initiative Is Tackling Gender
(Elizabeth Nyamayaro, 2015)
Debates over paid family leave, the gender wage gap, and women in leadership roles finally seem to be
making an impact. These are all important issues to tackle in the business world, but we need to start
making more headway much earlier. We need to go back to college.
These are all important issues to tackle in the business world, but we need to start making more headway
much earlier. We need to go back to college.
While gender and on-campus behavior have been in the spotlight lately, especially when it comes to
sexual assault, discussions about women's experiences and positions in the institutions they enter after
graduating remain largely apart. That represents a missed opportunity.
Bridging The Divide
This was apparent last month when the U.N. Women HeForShe movement toured several major
universities and asked students about their most pressing concerns. Four key issues kept coming up:
academic equality, career equality, sexual harassment and assault, and implicit biases.
Students didn't feel there were adequate systems in place to ensure that curriculums and the approach to
instruction were empowering to all. Some of those concerns strongly echoed complaints professional
women make about their employers. (Many student activists we spoke with even called for equal benefits
for all professors and administrators, including parental leave and pay equity.) And many also described
facing implicit gender biases that damaged their academic, athletic, and professional opportunities.
What's more, the issues we heard about were voiced by students across the spectrum of gender, race,
class, and sexual identity. These are universal, they're valid, and they're solvable. By taking action with an
eye to each of the distinct and overlapping communities concerned, we can create change on campus
that can then carry into the office, the boardroom, and beyond.
What Colleges Can Do
Universities need to listen more. Although campuses share many of the same issues, everyone needs to
measure its own shortcomings individually and commit to distinct plans of action. Canada’s leading
engineering school, the University of Waterloo, recently established the first-ever HeForShe scholarships
for female engineers in order to close the gap in STEM.
The University of Leicester in the U.K. is taking a different approach. It's identified the six disciplines with
the largest disparity between male and female enrollment, committing to narrowing those gaps by a
percentage point each year. The university is also launching a campaign to get more men to pursue
psychology and women into engineering programs.
The issues we heard about were voiced by students across the spectrum of gender, race, class, and
From Awareness To Action
This isn't a question of having more people support the idea of a gender-equal society. Most people
already do. Now we have to convert supporters into practitioners.
That's why the education we need to do in college has to be substantial and far-reaching—including tools
and skills training that create more inclusivity in other organizations, too. For instance, HeForShe is
currently working with its IMPACT Champion, Stony Brook University, to develop a range of programs
that redefine masculinity in a more positive way.
The stakes are high, and the implications of gender inequality can be as severe for young men as they
are for women. When we launched HeForShe in September 2014, we never expected to get so many
letters from incarcerated young men. No matter who they were or where they came from, these men and
boys all had one thing in common: They'd been told that their feelings made them weak, effeminate, and
inferior. This shame was so strong and unrelenting that it had misshaped their lives.
When we launched HeForShe in September 2014, we never expected to get so many letters from
incarcerated young men.
Making Diversity Matter To Everyone
So HeForShe has built a platform to help young people feel liberated from those gender-based social
constructs. The #GetFree University tour aims to create a world where we can all be free to be
ourselves—that is, to be emotional, strong, ambitious, vulnerable, and real—on our own terms.
The main challenge today is getting people of all genders, backgrounds, and affiliations to feel equally
invested in gender equality. That will always be a grassroots effort—moving from individuals and student
bodies to universities and corporations. At HeForShe, we have one very ambitious goal: to achieve a
gender-equal world by 2030, and to do that we need everyone to get involved.
After all, there's no one whom gender inequality doesn't affect. Small actions add up, take root, and
spread through society. It's okay to start small, as long as we're always thinking big.
1b. Top 10 Ways to be a Male Advocate for Technical women
Below are ten ways male advocates say they support technical women and promote diversity
efforts in their organizations. Use these ideas to influence your own efforts.
1. Listen to women's stories
Male advocates in technical workplaces identify listening to their female colleagues' and bosses'
stories about their experiences at work as one of the key drivers for their advocacy efforts. The
women's stories alerted them to pressures and circumstances they might never have noticed.
Let women know that you are interested in hearing their perspective if they are willing to share.
2. Talk to other men
Male supporters say talking to other men is critical. They raise awareness about why gender
diversity is important, share what they have learned from women's stories, and intervene
privately to correct discriminatory treatment, as needed. They suggest practicing what you might
say in difficult conversations.
3. Seek out ways to recruit women
Because men outnumber women in tech, women must be actively recruited. Inviting female
students to apply for internships, requiring hiring committees to interview a certain number of
candidates from under-represented groups, and providing promising minority employees with
development experiences are just some of the ways men suggest shifting the status quo.
4. Increase the number and visibility of female leaders
Male advocates recognize that having role models for a diverse range of employees is important
for recruitment, retention, employee satisfaction, and productivity. Raise the visibility of female
employees and consciously develop more female leaders who can model a range of leadership
styles. Provide technical and managerial opportunities, training, and promotions as part of this
5. Mentor and sponsor women
While female role models are important, women actually benefit greatly from powerful male
mentors. These mentoring relationships should be tailored to the individual's needs, but two
common suggestions are helping women navigate "hidden rules" in the organization and
making technical women's accomplishments more visible in the organization.
6. Notice and correct micro-inequities or instances of unconscious bias
Despite our best intentions, we are all subject to biases. When you see instances of
unconscious (or conscious) bias in your organization, take action. Some suggestions include
restructuring communication channels, moving people's desks or offices, paying attention to
who speaks and who is interrupted in meetings, shifting departmental policies, adjusting salary
discrepancies, or having one-on-one talks.
7. Establish accountability metrics
As the adage goes, what gets measured gets done. Effective male advocates describe
establishing metrics to diversify internship programs, new employee interviews, hires,
promotions, and even the make-up of project teams. When you make diversity part of what
individuals are evaluated on in performance appraisals or for funding allocations, changes
8. Model alternative work/life strategies
People in positions of power need to model work-life balance if these practices are to become
respected and accepted. Setting aside time to attend family or personal events, publicly utilizing
leave policies, and respectfully encouraging employees' alternative or flexible work hours are
some ways men suggest doing this.
9. Make discussions of gender less "risky"
Sometimes it is easier for men to bring up gender issues because they are unlikely to be
perceived as speaking in their own self-interest. Raise diversity topics in meetings; include
information in newsletters or in professional development; and coordinate with female
colleagues about how to best handle larger group conversations.
10. Reach out to formal and informal women's groups
Male advocates stressed the importance of requesting invitations to technical women's
meetings, participating in women-in-tech groups, and making sure that other men, especially top
leadership, attend as well. Men also described the benefits of sending male colleagues to
conferences like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
Note: These practices are derived from 45 in-depth interviews conducted by NCWIT
researchers with male corporate employees in technology organizations or departments. This
resource was produced in partnership with the Male Influencer Team of NCWIT's Workforce
1c. Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents
Need to Know: Excerpt (Catalyst)
The WAY FORWARD: Engaging men
The gender gap in leadership that is so common in many organizations1 represents a
significant missed opportunity for business. While in many parts of the world women hold more
than 50 percent of professional and managerial jobs, their representation in corporate
leadership falls far below 50 percent.
2 These trends tell us that women, a highly skilled source of leadership talent, are being
overlooked to the detriment of business. In the face of intense, global competition for talent, the
companies that can tap the best talent—both women and men—will have an advantage over
those that continue to rely on only men to fill top positions. The notion that women are good for
business is one that more and more companies are acting on.
3 Yet despite their best efforts to tap women, many organizations have fallen short of their
goals. Even among those companies that have implemented slews of programs to attract,
develop, and retain women employees, gender gaps in hiring, promotion, and retention rates
often persist—with men faring better than women on all counts.
Why have so many programs missed the mark?
One reason is that too many gender initiatives focus solely on changing women—from
the way they network to the way they lead. Another reason is that too many organizations look
to women alone to change the organizational practices that maintain the status quo. As we have
seen in recent decades, this approach has had limited success. Catalyst’s annual Censuses of
the Fortune 500 show that the gender mix at the highest corporate ranks has changed very little
in recent years.
4 To accelerate change, we need to stop treating gender as if it were just a woman’s burden. If
organizations want to minimize gender disparities, they need to enable women and men to
make behavioral changes. And perhaps most important, organizations must enlist both women
and men to work together as allies in changing the organizational norms and structures that
perpetuate gender gaps. Regrettably, in their exclusive focus on women, rather than engaging
men, many companies have unwittingly alienated them, inadvertently jeopardizing the success
of their gender initiatives.
5 Without the avid support of men, who are arguably the most powerful stakeholder group in
corporations, significant progress toward ending gender disparities is unlikely.6 Engaging men
is crucial to moving forward.
But just what are the best ways to reach men? Based on in-depth interviews and surveys of
managers in business, this study begins to explore this question, providing insights about:
• The experiences and beliefs that help increase men’s awareness of gender bias and its
costs in the workplace.
• The motivations that lead men to champion gender initiatives in the workplace.
• The barriers that limit men’s support for initiatives to promote gender equality.
• Specific techniques and practices to enlist men’s support for closing workplace gender
Note: Please see bibliography to view full article
2.Difference Makes Me Strong: The
resiliency of individuality
Session outcome: The forum will lead the discussion on topics related to the intersections of
gender, the implications of gender washing and the interconnectedness of collective struggle,
with a specific focus on race and ethnicity.
Aim: This forum will focus on case studies, personal stories and research to expose and engage
participants on topics related to the intersections of gender, the implications of gender washing
and the interconnectedness of collective struggle, with a specific focus on race and ethnicity. It
is important to note, race and ethnicity are not often discussed in Engineering, we would like to
push the envelope. The goal is to have critical dialogue in regards to the varies experiences
women face separately in engineering with an intersectional lens.
key point to drive: A key message is gender cannot be simplified as an equalizing element
2a. Intersectionality and STEM : The Role of Race and Gender
in the Academic Pursuits of African American Women in
STEM : Excerpt (LaVar J. Charleston, Ryan P. Adserias, University of Wisconsin-
Madison University of Wisconsin-Madison ,Nicole M. Lang, Jerlando F. L. Jackson ,
University of Wisconsin-Madison University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2014)
African American women are disproportionately underrepresented in the domains of science,
technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in relation to their share of the United States
population. This disparity must be reduced in order for the United States to maintain its global
standing in the competitive arenas of technology and innovation. However, current research
tends to underexamine how the intersection of race and gender identities impact the
experiences of African American women pursuing STEM careers. This dearth of knowledge is
addressed in this study, which examines the multifaceted marginalization that African American
women typically experience in the process of obtaining their STEM degrees, particularly in the
computing sciences. Accordingly, this study utilizes intersectionality theory as a theoretical
foundation to explore the role race and gender play in the STEM pursuits of African American
women, offering a window into some of the strategies this population employs in accomplishing
STEM educational goals and pursuits.
The director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), among others, has identified increasing
the number of minority graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
fields as a national priority. In 2010 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Research and
Science Education, then director, Arden L. Bement Jr., noted that changes in national
demographics no longer allow for “linear growth” but that increases in minority STEM graduates
must shift into what he called “geometric growth” (as cited in Basken, 2010, p. 1). Accordingly,
the goal of increasing the proportion of women and minority graduates in STEM fields is driven,
in part, by research about these groups’ lack of representation in STEM academia and
The NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics 2010 dataset illustrates the
significant hurdles facing women and African Americans in science and engineering (S&E)
fields. Analyses show that despite African Americans comprising nearly 11% of the total 2010
U.S. labor force, 5.5% or 247,000 jobs classified as S&E occupations were held by African
Americans; and of those 247,000 S&E occupation jobs, 108,000, or 2.4% of all S&E jobs, were
held by African American women.
However, those African American women who do work in STEM fields enjoy a smaller wage
gap compared to women in non-STEM fields (as cited in Beede et al., 2011).
In light of the statistical documentation demonstrating both women, overall, and minority
women’s underrepresentation in STEM occupations and academic programs, numerous
scholars have contributed empirical evidence and theoretical conceptualizations concerning the
factors affecting women's college decision-making processes in regards to STEM fields
(Morgan, Gelbgiser, & Weeden, 2013). Among these empirical and theoretical contributions
include the role of stereotype threat in hindering women’s performance in mathematics (see
Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999); institutional variables affecting undergraduate STEM student
completion rates (see Eagan, Hurtado, & Chang, 2010; Griffith, 2010; Perna et al., 2009);
faculty influence on minority women's persistence in science (see A. C. Johnson, 2007); the
postbaccalaureate career and
educational goals of women in STEM majors (see Cole & Espinoza, 2011); and the overall role
of gender-based stereotypes (see Nassar-McMillan, Wyer, Oliver-Hoyo, & Schneider, 2011).
While these contributions serve to inform the current study, this study aims to better understand
the intersections of race and gender, and how these identities intersect in the process of STEM
education and matriculation among African American women in computing. As such, the
primary research question driving this study was as follows: What role does race and gender
play in the academic pursuits of African American women in the STEM field of computing
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Women hold STEM jobs at a far lower rate compared to their overall participation in the job
market—while African American women make up about 6.4% of the total population, they hold
only 2.4% of all S&E jobs. Within mathematical and computing science occupations, African
American women accounted for 65,000 of the more than 3.5 million people employed in these
fields in 2010, or approximately 2% of the total mathematical and computing sciences jobs
(Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, 2013).
Additionally, statistics measuring income disparities between White and African American
women in computer information systems (CIS) fields show that on average, African American
women earn 25% less than their White women counterparts (Women, Minorities, and Persons
with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, 2013). While these numbers demonstrate an
underrepresentation of African American women in CIS for one recent year, the proportional lag
in the representation of African American women in STEM fields overall has persisted since at
least the 1970s (Ong, Wright, Espinosa, & Orfield, 2011).
While some have drawn on stereotypes to explain the underrepresentation of minority women—
attributing it to a lack of interest among these women to pursue STEM-related majors and
occupations—research provides no evidence of STEM aspiration gaps (Bonous-Hammarth,
2000; Smyth & McArdle, 2004; Staniec, 2004). On the other hand, underscoring the salience of
social identity in minority women’s STEM academic and career goals, Ong and associates
(2011) consistently found social identity to be among the most important in assuring STEM
success. In their analysis, Ong and colleagues (2011) note that the intersectional identities of
minority women play an important role in the development and persistence of these women in
STEM fields. Additionally, Carlone and Johnson (2007) noted that the development of a science
identity provided a solid foundation for future career success among the 15 minority women who
participated in their study. Conversely, others identified factors decreasing the likelihood of
persistence of minority women in STEM majors include: the lack of science talent development
(Ong, 2005), the delegitimization of minority women within STEM communities, and the isolation
minority women often experience when they are all-too-often among the few, if not only, minority
woman in their laboratory or academic department (Carlone & Johnson, 2007).
Intersectionality and STEM. An intersectional analysis of minority women’s experiences in
STEM fields holds that minority women are subject to the complex interplay of sexism and
racism, conceptualized as the double bind (Ong et al., 2011). The double bind consists of a set
of “unique challenges minority women [face] as they simultaneously experienced sexism and
racism in their STEM careers” (p. 175). In the context of African American women interested in
STEM fields, the double bind concept holds that these women face the unique problem of
pursuing career paths that are not only in conflict with their racial identity (A. C. Johnson, Brown,
Carlone, & Cuevas, 2011) but also with their gender identity while situated in an environment
historically dominated by White and Asian males (Jackson & Charleston, 2012; Brown, 1997; A.
C. Johnson et al., 2011; Malcom, 1996; Margolis, Goode, & Bernier, 2011).
Research supporting the importance of intersectional identities suggests that African American
women’s success in STEM fields may hinge on the development of an identity that is compatible
with their gender and racial identities, as well as their academic interests (Borum & Walker,
2012; Espinosa, 2008; Fogliati & Bussey, 2013; A. C. Johnson et al., 2011; Ko, Kachchaf, Ong,
& Hodari, 2013; McGee & Martin, 2011; Rosenthal, London, Levy, & Lobel, 2011). Although the
development of strong, intersectional identities have been identified as critical cultural and
societal factors in development (Rosenthal et al., 2011), the intersections of Black women’s
racial, gender, and scientific identities may conflict with many of the messages Black women
and girls receive throughout the educational pipeline, and may thus pose a significant challenge
to their ability to successfully develop a Black woman scientist identity.
Challenges in the educational pipeline. From a young age, girls tend to be alienated by science
(Brickhouse, Lowery, & Schultz, 2000). The conflation of numerous factors, including gendered-
stereotypes, pedagogical techniques, and science curricula, conspire against many young
women’s ability to develop and maintain an interest in science, as well as to develop a science
identity (Brickhouse et al., 2000). Other factors, such as exposure to science and technology
outside the classroom, have been identified as an impediment to young women’s interests in
STEM fields. For example, researchers have shown that as compared to Whites, Black girls are
less likely to be exposed to computers and technology at an early age, contributing to limiting
their initial interest in the field (Fisher, Margolis, & Miller, 1997; Margolis et al., 2011). In addition
to the likelihood of decreased exposure to science, technology, and computers outside the
classroom, young women and girls of color are less likely to succeed in the areas of math and
science at all levels of their academic careers, leaving them underprepared to achieve success
in STEM fields at the undergraduate level (ACT, 2006; Buzzetto-More, Ukoha, & Rustagi, 2010;
Espinosa, 2008; A. C. Johnson et al., 2011; Perna et al., 2009). Despite the likelihood of
depressed avenues of exposure and under preparation, the literature posits that the
underrepresentation of Black women in STEM is due not to a lack of interest or competency, but
instead is owed to the tendency of the American education system to disengage, under-
educate, and underutilize women of color at all levels of the academic pipeline (Farinde &
Lewis, 2012; A. C. Johnson et al., 2011;
Koetal., 2013; Margolis et al., 2011; Syed & Chemers, 2011). From the elementary to high
school level, young Black women have historically underperformed in the areas of math and
science in comparison to their White counterparts, which has negatively impacted young Black
women’s intentions to strive for careers in STEM fields (ACT, 2006). Although efforts to
eradicate this disparity have been studied, and some models which have achieved success
have been developed (e.g., the Meyerhoff Scholars Program described in Maton, Hrabowski, &
Schmitt, 2000), exemplars demonstrating broad-based, successful initiatives remain sparse.
Thus, for young Black women, several significant factors compound early on to generate
barriers to their success in STEM including: The socially-constructed incongruence of gender,
racial, and science identities (A. C. Johnson et al., 2011); systemic educational barriers to Black
girls’ engagement in STEM (Brickhouse et al., 2000; Farinde & Lewis, 2012; A. C. Johnson et
al., 2011; Syed & Chemers, 2011); and barriers inhibiting early science and technology
exposure (Fisher et al., 1997).
In the transition from K-12 to higher education systems, much of the published literature to date
has emphasized adequate preparation at early and secondary levels of education as most
integral to sustaining Black women STEM scholars in higher levels of academia (Ehrenberg,
2010; George, Neale, Van Horne, & Malcolm, 2001; Perna et al., 2009; Price, 2010). In light of
the significant obstacles confronting many young Black women in the K-12 pipeline, particularly
early on, it may be that young Black women develop lower levels of perceived self-efficacy in
math and science, a related factor contributing to depressed levels of later STEM degree
attainment (Espinosa, 2008). Indeed, research examining the decision to choose a STEM major
found that that earlier achievement in mathematics contributed both significantly and positively
to perceived math self-efficacy for underrepresented minorities, which in turn played a
significant role in students’ decisions to choose a STEM major (see Wang, 2013). In light of
Wang (2013) and others’ findings (e.g., Frank et al., 2008; Riegle-Crumb, King, Grodsky, &
Muller, 2012; Riegle-Crumb, Moore, & Ramos-Wada, 2011), significant attention should be paid
to early science and math achievement as a precursor to later high math and science self-
At the undergraduate level, many studies point to social factors and academic rigor as
hindrances to Black women’s persistence in STEM and computing sciences. Evidence that
demonstrates that students of color are more likely to discontinue their STEM studies for a
variety of reasons, such as social isolation, academic difficulties, and financial
stresses(Buzzetto-More et al., 2010; Charleston, 2012; George et al., 2001), and may
negatively contribute to Black women undergraduates’ experience based on their racial identity.
Other scholars, such as Palmer, Maramba, and Dancy (2011), discovered that
underrepresented minorities are apt to experience feelings of alienation in STEM classes, and
underlined the need for institutions to be more mindful of minority student integration and
support at all levels of undergraduate experience including in the classroom culturally, and in
terms of extracurricular activities (e.g., academic-related student clubs and organizations). For
Black undergraduate women in STEM fields, the intersections of gender and race present
unique barriers, as Black women often report
instances of multifaceted discrimination based on both their gender and racial identities (D. R.
Johnson, 2011).These barriers to success remain for Black women at the graduate level, where
they are often faced with cultural boundaries that discourage their ability to amalgamate their
other, and often-conflicting gender, racial, and academic identities. Studies concerning students
from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), many of whom have gone on to
pursue graduate degrees at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), have shown HBCU
environments to be conducive to Black students’ success in STEM fields (Malcom, 1996;
Owens, Shelton, Bloom, & Cavil, 2012; Perna et al., 2009; Perna, Gasman, Gary, Lundy-
Wagner, & Drezner, 2010). In one qualitative study, “From one Culture to Another: Years One
and Two of Graduate School for African American Women in the STEM Fields,” Joseph (2012)
investigated the HBCU-to-PWI pipeline and found that these students, who had experienced
extremely nurturing and supportive cultural support at their undergraduate HBCUs, found their
experience at the graduate-level in PWIs to be markedly cold and alienating, causing many of
them to question their academic abilities. A similarly alienating culture was found in laboratory
settings, where Black women often reported feeling like the other instead of successfully
assimilating into their respective laboratory settings (see Ko et al., 2013).
At higher levels of academia, such as doctoral or faculty positions, African American women
face even more obstacles in advancing their careers in their respective fields (Syed & Chemers,
2011). These women face the unique problem of balancing their career advancement and their
family lives while upholding culturally acceptable roles for their gender as well as their race
(Cech, Rubineau, Silbey, & Seron, 2011; Ko et al., 2013). Moreover, many underrepresented
minority women in STEM who pursue careers in academia report experiencing instances of
sexism at their institutions of employment when faced with family-related matters such as
maternity leave, which negatively affects their attitudes toward their own success (Turner et al.,
2011). Another barrier to the retention of Black women in STEM fields at higher levels is the
desire for activism. A qualitative study conducted by Ko, Kachchaf, Ong, and Hodari (2013)
found that many women of color in STEM express a strong desire to improve conditions for
younger generations of underrepresented racial identities and women through recruitment,
volunteerism, charity work, or other activities—all of which can take precedence over their own
Despite an increase in the amount of attention paid to the experiences, challenges, and barriers
to women and minorities in STEM fields, research is still needed to better understand the
specific barriers causing the underrepresentation of Black women in the computer sciences and
the merits of various proposed prescriptions. By qualitatively exploring the experiences of
African American STEM aspirants in computing science academic trajectories, this research
study seeks to investigate and illuminate the current gaps in the literature in an effort to better
formulate solutions to these obstacles. As mentioned previously, this study is guided by the
following question: What role does race and gender play in the academic pursuits of African
American women in the STEM field of computing sciences?
Conceptually and practically, intersectionality serves a dual role as both a theoretical lens and
methodological framework. Intersectionality both critiques and offers alternatives to traditional
modes of understanding the subjugating experiences of women whose marginalization
emanates from multiple angles—in the case of Black women, as both a subjugated racial
minority and as a woman. Further, intersectionality shifts the focus, as Cho, Crenshaw, and
McCall (2013) put it, “beyond the more narrowly circumscribed demands for inclusion with the
logics of sameness and difference” (p. 791). This shift in focus “addressed larger ideological
structures in which subjects, problems, and solutions were framed” (Cho et al., 2013, p. 791). In
other words, intersectionality’s utility is not confined to conceptual or theoretical applications; it
also offers scholars a set of practical methodological tools to give voice to individuals with
multiplicative marginalities. Through the creative and innovative deployment of empirical
methodological traditions, researchers are better able to uncover, challenge, and undermine the
phenomenon of multiple overlapping sources of subjugation.
Intersectional lenses and methodologies have been deployed well beyond the law—
intersectionality's field of origination—and have made contributions to other fields such as
geography (e.g., Valentine, 2007); sociology (e.g., Choo & Ferree, 2010); psychology (e.g.,
Shields, 2008); leadership studies (e.g., Sanchez-Hucles & Davis, 2010); religion (e.g., Lee,
2012); queer theory and sexuality studies (e.g., Battle & Ashley, 2008; Fotopoulou, 2012;
Moore, 2012; Stirratt, Meyer, Ouellette, & Gara, 2008); international and transnational studies
(e.g., Choo, 2012; Lewis, 2013); and education (e.g., Alejano-Steele et al., 2011; Grant & Zwier,
2011; C. E. Harper, 2011; S. R. Harper et al., 2011; Museus & Griffin, 2011; Museus, 2011;
Pifer, 2011; Stirratt et al., 2008).
Although intersectionality has been widely applied in other areas of social science research
(particularly in gender and critical race theory research contexts), Museus and Griffin (2011)
noted intersectionality has been applied less frequently, and indeed runs counter to trends
among higher education researchers, who tend to examine singular identities. Museus and
Griffin (2011) further contend that contemporary unidimensional analytical frameworks at best
obscure and overlook, and at worst contribute to the perpetuation of marginalization of some
groups in higher education. By ignoring the true diversity of populations in postsecondary
institutions, such scholarship overlooks those whose identities exist at the margins and
reinforces ignorance about how intersecting identities impact inequality.
Qualitative research methods have been identified by, among others, Stephanie Shields (2008)
as appropriate for tackling questions of interrelated and intersectional identities. Shields (2008)
observed that qualitative methods “appear to be more compatible with the theoretical language
and intent of intersectionality” (p. 306). Further, unlike traditional quantitative methodologies of
hypothesis testing, researchers employing qualitative methods are less burdened by a priori
knowledge making (Shields, 2008).
McCall (2005) identified research tools commonly employed in the anticategorical complexity
approach that “crosscut the disciplinary divide between the social sciences
and the humanities” (p. 1778)—both of which feature traditions strongly rooted in qualitative
methodologies. McCall (2005) hailed ethnography as an appropriate intersectionality research
design, while Nash (2008) noted the successful application of poetry, narrative, and standpoint
epistemological methods in the service of conducting intersectional research.
Chism and Banta (2007) suggest qualitative methods, especially those employing semi-
structured and open-ended approaches, allow participants to “introduce themes that the
interviewer might not have anticipated in framing questions” (p. 16), which can be informative in
measuring a wide variety of topics within institutions of higher education. Further, researchers
suggest qualitative methods can be useful for assessing institutional cultures related to diversity
(see Museus, 2007), and they are especially appropriate for discovering variables and
conducting initial explorations of a research problem (see Creswell, 2012). In the case of this
study, which seeks to illuminate experiences based on the intersectional identities of African
American women in computing sciences, we chose to employ a qualitative research design to
allow for participants to give voice to their own identities and experiences (Cole, 2009).
A phenomenological design was well-suited to the study because our inquiry aims to
understand a common experience of a group of people, allowing the researchers to use data
from participants to develop foundational knowledge about the phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994;
Shank, 2002). A focus group was conducted lasting approximately 90 minutes in duration and
moderated by an African American woman. Participants provided consent orally and were made
aware of their right to suspend the session at any time. The focus group session was recorded
and the tape was transcribed and filed for possible future use as a promotional/professional aid
(based on the consent of the participants). The session was comprised of a series of closed and
open- ended questions designed to gather information relative to the participants’ experiences,
with specific attention to the roles gender and race play within their academic trajectories within
the computing sciences.
2b. Inside the Double Bind: A Synthesis of Empirical
Research on Undergraduate and Graduate Women of Color
in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics-
Excerpt (Maria Ong, Carol Wright, Lorelle Espinosa, and Gary Orfield, 2010)
THE NATIONAL LANDSCAPE OF WOMEN OF COLOR IN SCIENCE,
TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS
Improving recruitment and retention in science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics (STEM) is a critical challenge facing the nation. In an increasingly globalized
world, scientific advancement and innovation are vitally important for maintaining national
security, economic competitiveness, and quality of life for our citizens. The United States faces
serious threats to its global authority in many scientific and technical fields, in part because of
the large investments in science and technology education and research being made by
competing nations (National Academies, 2006). One critical component of the U.S. response to
these challenges must be to invest in the potential of all Americans in building a robust
workforce in STEM fields. Unfortunately, the current U.S. educational and research
infrastructures fail to do this, and they systematically under-utilize important human resources of
several groups, most notably women of color. As national demographics of college-age students
rapidly shift towards majority-minority and as the college-age population remains majority
female, it is timely and, perhaps, imperative that education and career efforts work to build
capacity of women of color to assume advanced STEM positions.
Because of their race, ethnicity, and gender, women of color who pursue advancement
through STEM fields are caught in a double bind. The challenges of living at the intersection of
race and gender were first brought to national attention by Shirley Malcom, Paula Hall, and
Janet Brown, in their seminal 1976 American Association for the Advancement of Science
report, The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science. The authors argued
that the struggles to be scientists were greater for women of color than for White women or for
men of any color. Thirty years later, the persistently low proportions of women of color in STEM
support this claim. Even as underrepresented minority (URM) women – African American,
Latina/Chicana, and Native American2 – have gained representation in STEM in absolute
numbers in most fields since the publication of The Double Bind, they lag behind white men and
their men of color counterparts at advanced stages of most STEM fields (NSF 2009). Moreover,
their 2006 proportional demographic presence at the baccalaureate level is low compared with
those of White and Asian American women (Figure 1.1; NSF, 2007; U.S. Census Bureau,
2009). In other words, the awarding of bachelor’s degrees to URM women is not at parity with
their respective representations in the U.S. population.
Unfortunately, the problem is even more severe at the doctoral level when comparing
the representation of women of color in STEM to that of all men, to white women, and to women
of color in the U.S. population. At the Ph.D. level in 2006, women of color were severely
underrepresented, collectively earning only 9.9% of all doctorates awarded in science and
engineering while their representation in the general U.S. population was 16.4% (Figure 1.2;
NSF, 2007; U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). Asian American/Pacific Islander women have often
been seen as the exception; indeed, 2006 data show that they earned STEM Ph.Ds at a
disproportionate rate relative to their general U.S. representation. However, this group – like
other women of color – have been, and continue to be, stuck at junior-level positions and are
not advancing to leadership positions at the same pace as their male and White female
counterparts (National Research Council, 2006).
Women and racial and ethnic minorities, and especially women of color, are widely
considered to be untapped sources of domestic talent that could fill the country’s current and
future scientific workforce needs (Ivie & Ray, 2005; National Academies, 2006). Moreover, non-
traditional students and workers bring to STEM culturally different knowledge and experiences
that may be leveraged to innovatively solve complex problems (Bement, 2009). Equally
important, minority women’s status in advanced STEM arenas raises an important social justice
issue: schools and workplaces must make greater efforts to address social and cultural
inequities and to achieve environments that support broadened participation in STEM
(S.W.Brown, 2000). While many institutions attempt such efforts, the statistics cited above show
that too few are succeeding.
The goal of this white paper is to unite disparate research about the individuals who
traverse the double bind and the programs and institutions with which they interact, thereby
creating a new and stronger knowledge base about what promotes success for this population.
The project, Inside the Double Bind: A Synthesis of Empirical Research on Women of Color in
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (NSF-DRL # 0635577), brought together a
team of expert researchers towards this goal. Between 2006 and 2009, the project team, led by
PIMaria Ong and Co-PI Gary Orfield, systematically searched for, identified, and compiled
empirical research on women of color in STEM that was produced between 1970 and 2008. The
team targeted literature that focused on postsecondary education and early-, mid-, and late-
career stages. The resulting 116 works were then coded, analyzed, and synthesized. This paper
presents a summary of key findings, following the methods section. It is our hope that this
manuscript will provide new and established researchers a literature base from which to work
and prompt ongoing awareness and discussion of the need to address the experiences of
women of color in STEM through continued empirical-based study.
Note: Please see bibliography to view full article
2c. Let the Sisters Speak: Understanding Information
Technology from the Standpoint of the ‘Other’- Excerpt (Lynette
Gender as variable
The prevailing approach for studying gender in organizations is ‘Gender-as-variable’. In
this perspective, women are treated as a relevant but unproblematic research category
(Harding, 1987). The researcher is basically interested in comparing and explaining differences
between the sexes. “It investigates if, in what respects, under which circumstance, and to what
extent men and women differ in terms of subjective orientations (psychologies, ethics, values,
attitudes), and how social structures and processes affect them. Various forms of gender
inequality are measured and explained” (Alvesson & Billing, 1997, p. 24). Organizational
interventions informed by this approach fail to address the fragmented nature of women’s
experiences and needs, because there is an underlying assumption of a single female
experience (Cheng, 1997; Henwood, 2000; Kvasny, 2003a; 2003b; Trauth 2002). This
essentialist tendency is political in that it emphasizes a single characteristic of gender (sex)
while ignoring the equally important impacts of race, class, national origin, and sexual
preference on the self-identity of women. Cheng (1997) notes, “[a]lthough women-in-
management research has become mainstream, other diversity issues are almost entirely
ignored, particularly racism, patriarchy, class, heterosexism, sexuality, sexual identity, religion,
postcolonial issues, physical Sopability and so on.” (p. 553). Poor women, lesbians, and women
of color face a ‘system of interlocking inequalities and oppressions’, and these multiple identities
are central in their lived experiences (hooks, 1995). Therefore, these women may find little in
this essentialist notion of womanhood that fits their experiences with and perceptions about IT.
Race as People of Color
This tension between the commonality and uniqueness of women’s experiences is at the
center of the debates in feminism (Caraway, 1991). Within this debate, there is a general call to
theorize both race and gender as interlocking and simultaneous features of women’s existence
(de Lauretis, 1986; Collins, 1990; Brush, 2001). However, in organizational studies, race is
typically treated in an essentialist fashion (Cox and Nkomo, 1990). This leads to conventions
such as merging people of color into single categories such as ‘nonwhite’ or ‘other’. For Omi
and Winant (1986), race is more than biological difference; race is the result of the historical
construction of racial categories that form the major bases of domination in US society. These
categories play a crucial role in determining one’s politics and ideologies, one’s location in the
workforce, and even one’s sense of identity. Thus, categorizations such as ‘nonwhite’ are
political in that they ignore whiteness as a racial position and deny racial differences among
people of color. It is only by acknowledging and analyzing the relationship between race and
power in organizations that we can address issues of diversity and equity.
We can see the importance of racial differences by comparing stereotyped notions of
Asian- and African - Americans. On the one hand, Asian-Americans are stereotyped as the
‘model minority’ (Cheng & Thatchenkery, 1997) who are thought to have overcome cultural,
racial, and social barriers to advancement. On the other hand, African-American women are
stereotyped as ‘that single parent element’ (Kendell, 1999) who are thought to have immoral
and deviant lifestyles. Organizational dynamics and experiences for these two groups will be
different based upon these stereotypes. To mask these differences in statistical manipulations
like factor analysis is to deny the particular realities of racial experiences.
Note: Please see bibliography to view full article
2d. Women of Color in STEM Fields - ( Espinosa, Lorelle L., 2011)
As a group, women are still the largest untapped talent pool for growing America's science,
technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, workforce. Women of color, in particular,
remain greatly underrepresented in STEM disciplines despite a growing population of
racial/ethnic minority groups and a growing number of women and minorities attending college.
In an effort to raise awareness of this issue, the Harvard Educational Review, or HER, highlights
the plight of women of color in STEM in its summer symposium issue, Unraveling the Double
Bind: Women of Color in STEM (http://www.hepg.org.resources.library.brandeis.edu/
her/abstract/814). The issue comprises a collection of papers (I also served as a contributor)
ranging from the history of empirical work on women of color in undergraduate and graduate
STEM programs to recent quantitative and qualitative evidence on the experience of women of
color in STEM across institutional types.
According to one paper in the symposium issue, despite more than a 40-year research agenda,
American scholars have produced only 116 empirical studies on women from racial/ethnic
minority groups (including Asian American/Pacific Islanders) in STEM higher education and
careers. Clearly, the field has under-examined this population, and it is only to our detriment as
The most recent U.S. Census data depict African-American, Hispanic and Native American
women, when taken together, representing nearly 16 percent of the U.S. population ages 1844.
However, they represent just 10 percent and 6 percent of the nation's STEM bachelor's and
doctoral degrees, respectively. It is, therefore, right to recognize the untapped resource that
women of color represent when it comes to increasing STEM degrees and, ultimately,
innovation in STEM fields.
And yet, while many questions remain unanswered about just what works for women of color in
STEM, contributors to the HER symposium issue echoed a number of cohesive, evidenced
takeaways - all of which work to inform research, practice, and educational policy:
* First, environment absolutely matters. Researchers are wise to continue to examine sub -
contexts such as campus and departmental climate at differing institution types (e.g., community
colleges, HBCUs, Hispanic-Serving Institutions). So, too, the policy community cannot afford to
under-invest or discount the role that these varied institutions play in conferring STEM degrees.
* Second, faculty support and involvement is not only desired by students, it is critical for their
success. Faculty interaction at all levels (especially during graduate study) can be instrumental
in keeping more women and women of color on a STEM career path. University leadership must
put in place the supports that faculty need to make teaching and mentoring a priority and
provide incentives to make the use of diverse pedagogies a lasting commitment within STEM
* Third, given the great numbers of women of color who begin their education at community
colleges, two- and four-year institutions must not only provide support structures for women who
transfer from two-year colleges, but education policymakers also must act to make room for
these women. Given deep budget cuts in many states, students who wish to transfer are being
turned away from four-year institutions because of a lack of available courses as well as outright
enrollment caps for transfers.
* Finally, if we are to rely on evidence, we must start with the right set of data. Higher
education's most widely used national data - the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data
System, or IPEDS - fails to track women of color and underrepresented groups where they are.
As many readers know, IPEDS does not capture part-time, transfer, or reentry students; yet, it
remains the most used set of data in informing the policy community.
Political leaders and policymakers can play a vital role in advancing inclusion in STEM, as well.
National councils and influential individuals can do more with less in an economically strained
environment by raising political will - a practice that can lead to financial investments by private
philanthropies and corporate foundations. The White House Council on Women and Girls, for
example, is an excellent platform for raising awareness on the need for more women and
women of color in STEM fields.
There are indeed a number of outlets for meaningful change when it comes to advancing
women of color in STEM, and it is important that successful efforts are elevated. It is indeed
encouraging that such a high-profile, prestigious journal like HER has taken on this issue - a
move that I hope will help influence research, practice, and policy moving forward.
Sidebar :"University leadership must put in place the supports that faculty need to make
teaching and mentoring a priority and provide incentives to make the use of diverse pedagogies
a lasting commitment within STEM departments."
3.Women: Why so few? It’s an “And” world.
Attract and retain the best.
Session outcome: The Forum will examine unique solutions to attract women into engineering
field, change the way we invest our resources and unearth the insights that will help us stop
trailing all other disciplines with STEM.
Aim: We would like panelist the lead the discussion about the various reasons women opt-in
and opt-out of Engineering. This forum will be data and personal story driven with the aim to
drive critical dialogue towards identifying exclusionary barriers. In addition to acknowledging
barriers, we want the audience to focus on examining unique solutions that attract women into
engineering field, change the way resources are invested and unearth the insights that will help
us stop trailing other disciplines within STEM. Panelists will offer key insights into the
importance of building critical links among educational institutions, corporate organizations and
others to develop and sustain the robust talent pipeline
Key point to consider: A key point for participants to consider is the different metrics used to
determine opt in/ out in Higher Education and Corporate.
3a. ‘Comparison of women engineers who persist in or
depart from engineering - Excerpt (Nadya A. Fouad, Romila Singh, Kevin
Cappaert, Wen-hsin Chang, Min Wan,2016)
The proportion of women in engineering has been a topic of intense focus for many
years. Twenty percent of engineering graduates are women but only 11% of engineers are
women (National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2011), a rate
that has been relatively constant for over two decades. Thus, nearly half of women who
graduate in engineering decide, somewhere along the way, to leave an engineering career. But,
conversely, half remain in engineering. What are the factors that differentiate women engineers
who stay in engineering and those who identify as ‘no longer working as an engineer’? The
current research examined differences between women engineers who persisted versus those
who left engineering by providing a comprehensive theoretical framework that unified two
prominent theories of career change: social cognitive career theory (SCCT, Lent et al., 1994
and Lent et al., 2002) and the integrated model of career change (Rhodes & Doering, 1983).
Prior research in this area (Singh et al., 2013) integrated the SCCT with Hom and Griffeth
(1995) organizational turnover theory to examine the predictors of departure intentions on over
2000 women engineers. They found support for the relationship between the Social Cognitive
constructs (self-efficacy and outcome expectations), organizational factors (organizational
supports and job attitudes), and women's intention to leave their organizations. However, this
research did not identify the factors that distinguish women who leave the engineering career
from those who persist in the occupation.
Various explanations have been offered to explain why women leave nontraditional
occupations, both in the scholarly literature and in the popular media. Some have argued that
women leave engineering or STEM careers because they lack confidence (Cech et al., 2011
and Kay and Shipman, 2014), others cite women's lack of interests in technical areas (Seymour
& Hewitt, 1997), and still others suggest that women's departure is linked to a chilly climate
(American Association of University Women, 2010 and Society of Women Engineers, 2007). But
to date, no studies have explicitly examined differences between women who leave engineering
and those who stay. We address these limitations by using a comprehensive theoretical lens to
examine differences between “persisters” and “nonpersisters” on self-efficacy, outcome
expectations, interests, organizational supports, and barriers. Since individuals may leave a
particular job, but not the profession of engineering, we also examine differences in the two
groups on their intentions to leave the profession altogether.
2. Theoretical background and hypotheses
Despite decades of research on career change and career mobility, the field is marked by a
surprising absence of comprehensive theoretical frameworks that explain the career withdrawal
decision. In this section we lay out the theoretical foundation for the study by presenting an
integrated view of two prominent career change and management theories that undergird the
2.1. Social cognitive career theory
2.1.1. Self-efficacy and outcome expectations
The Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT; Lent et al., 1994 and Lent et al., 2002) was
developed originally to apply Bandura's (2012) social cognitive model to the career area.
Specifically, it was developed to predict the development of interests and the pursuit of career
goals. Confidence in accomplishing tasks and expecting positive outcomes from engaging in
tasks are hypothesized to lead to the development of interests. In turn, these are proposed to
lead to setting goals for occupational choices and then acting on those goals. Self-efficacy and
outcome expectations are also proposed to be domain specific. In other words, confidence in
accomplishing tasks in one area is distinct from developing confidence in other areas.
Most of the studies in engineering self-efficacy and outcome expectations have focused
on engineering majors (e.g., Inda et al., 2013, Lent et al., 2013 and Lent et al., 2008) and
examined differences between men and women on self-efficacy for engineering tasks or
academic milestones. For example, Cech et al. (2011) focused on professional role self-
confidence, finding that men were more confident than women and that lack of professional self-
confidence in women was related to not persisting in an engineering major. However, these
studies focused on college students' academic decisions that shaped their occupational paths
and do not adequately capture individuals' post-college career decisions within the engineering
field. In an attempt to address this gap in the literature, researchers have recently turned to
examine the factors that influence engineering professionals' career decisions. Fouad,
Fitzpatrick, and Liu (2011) interviewed women who left engineering and those who stayed in the
field. They found three domains of self-efficacy and outcome expectations predominated in their
participants' narratives. These were the following: confidence in engineering tasks, confidence
in the ability to navigate the organizational culture, and confidence in the ability to manage
multiple life roles. Fouad et al. (2011) suggested that these may be the most salient domains
that differentiate women who leave engineering and those who stay. The participants who left
said they did so because they were not keeping up with the engineering tasks, were having
trouble navigating work-life balance and their multiple roles, and expressed concern about
dealing with the organizational politics in large companies. It may be that women who leave
engineering careers do so because they are less confident in these three domains and have
lower expectations of outcomes associated with being an engineer in an organization. Based on
the reasoning drawn from the SCCT theory and current research, we propose the following two
Hypothesis 1. : Women who leave engineering have lower levels of domain specific self-efficacy
than women who stay in the field in the areas of accomplishing engineering tasks, managing
multiple roles, and navigating the organizational culture.
Hypothesis 2. : Women who leave engineering have lower levels of domain-specific outcome
expectations than women who stayed in the field in the areas of accomplishing engineering
tasks, managing multiple roles, and navigating the organizational culture
2.1.2. Vocational interests
High levels of self-efficacy and outcome expectations are predicted in the Social
Cognitive Career Theory (Lent et al., 1994) to lead to interests in the career area. Holland's
occupational code for professional engineers is Realistic and Investigative on the Strong
Interest Inventory (Donnay, Morris, Schaubhut, & Thompson, 2005). Holland's theory would
predict that women who stay in engineering would have high Realistic and Investigative
interests to be congruent with the occupational code. Lending support for this hypothesis with
engineering students, Lent et al. (2013) found that having engineering interests predicted
satisfaction with an engineering college major, which in turn predicted intentions to persist in the
major. These relationships fit for both men and women, although it was a slightly better fit for
women. This relationship may extend to predict persistence in the workplace. It may be that
women leave engineering because either their Realistic and Investigative interests are low or
that other interest codes are higher, leading them to leave and pursue other, more congruent
occupations. This leads to the third hypothesis:
Hypothesis 3 : Women who leave engineering have lower Realistic and Investigative interests
and have higher Artistic, Social, Enterprising or Conventional interests than women who stay in
2.1.3. Contextual factors
According to the SCCT (Lent et al., 2002), contextual factors in the form of barriers and
supports exercise a significant influence on individuals' career choices. Limited research in this
area indicates that women in engineering and technical workplaces experience isolation, biase
evaluations, sexist behaviors, and non-supportive supervisors (e.g., Ayre et al., 2013, Catalyst,
2008, Fouad et al., 2011 and Hewlett et al., 2008), that are labeled as “micro-aggressions” (Sue,
2010). Studies have shown that women in engineering and computing fields (both in academic
and technical workplaces) experience a host of micro-aggressions that are adversely related to
their commitment to the workplace and the profession.
Consistent with the SCCT model (Lent et al., 2002), contextual influences in the form of
micro-aggressions will act as barriers and exert a negative influence on choice behavior. In our
study, we examined micro-aggressive behaviors in the form of two constructs: social
undermining by bosses and coworkers and workplace hostility that including incivility and
vicarious experience of mistreatment of women in the workplace. Undermining is defined as
behavior that is “intended to hinder a targeted person's ability to establish and maintain positive
interpersonal relationships, achieve work-related success, and maintain a favorable reputation”
(Duffy, Ganster, & Pagan, 2002, p. 332). It could be initiated by either a supervisor or a
coworker, and in our study, we examined both of these sources. Another form of micro-
aggressive behavior is workplace hostility which included both overt acts and secondary (or
vicarious) effects that are indicative of the “interpersonal climate for women” (Miner-Rubino &
Cortina, 2007, p. 1255). According to Miner-Rubino and Cortina (2007) such interpersonal
climate is comprised of overt expressions of hostility such as workplace incivility (Giacalone &
Greenberg, 1997). Andersson and Pearson (1999) defined workplace incivility as “low intensity
deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for
mutual respect.” (p. 457). Miner-Rubino and Cortina's (2007) research also included vicarious
experience of mistreatment of women in the workplace as another component of workplace
hostility. Such vicarious or ‘bystander’ experiences of mistreatment include witnessing or
hearing about sexual harassment of a female coworker (K. T. Schneider, 1996). Several studies
have documented a plethora of negative outcomes associated with micro-aggressive behaviors
at work, including impaired concentration, productivity declines, greater turnover cognitions,
lower job satisfaction, and actual turnover (e.g., Cortina et al., 2001, Miner-Rubino and Cortina,
2007 and Pearson et al., 2000).
We also examined additional workplace barriers in the form of three role stressors: role
ambiguity, role overload, and role conflict. Role ambiguity refers to vague or unclear
expectations of employees' performance (Katz & Kahn, 1978) and role overload occurs when
role responsibilities are greater than what individuals' abilities and motivation can handle in a
reasonable amount of time (Spector & Jex, 1998). Role conflict occurs when employees deal
with incompatible expectations such that compliance with one expectation makes it difficult to
fulfill other role requirements. All three types of role stressors have been linked to a variety of
negative psychological, somatic, and attitudinal outcomes (e.g., Gilboa et al., 2008 and Jackson
and Schuler, 1985). Research has also found support for the relationship between job stressors
and career withdrawal intentions for engineers (e.g., Aryee, 1993) and nurses (e.g., Blau, 1987).
In light of the accumulated theoretical and empirical evidence, we propose that women who
leave engineering will differ from their counterparts who stay based on their experiences of
organizational barriers such as micro-aggressions and role stressors.
Hypothesis 4. : Women who leave engineering have experienced greater levels of barriers than
women who stay in the field.
SCCT theory (Lent et al., 2002) states that contextual influences in the form of supports are
positively related to choice behavior. This view is also aligned with the organizational support
theory advanced by Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, and Sowa (1986) that posits
that employees who encounter a supportive climate at work will be more satisfied and
committed to their jobs, and less likely to consider quitting their organizations. Kossek, Pichler,
Bodner, and Hammer (2011), define workplace social support as the “degree to which
individuals perceive that their well-being is valued by workplace sources, such as supervisors
and the broader organization in which they are embedded, and the perception that these
sources provide help to support this well-being” (p. 292). Workplace social support includes
having the support to balance work and family obligations, being recognized for one's
contributions, offered opportunities for recognition, promotion, and training and development.
Support can emerge from different sources (e.g., supervisors and coworkers) and can vary in
terms of being either “content-specific” or “content-general” (Kossek et al., 2011). As the term
suggests, content specific support is evident when employees perceive their supervisors and
organizations as caring for their well-being and providing them with resources to address
particular role demands. Content general support is characterized by general expressions of
care for employees' well-being and provision of relational and/or tangible support to them.
In this study, we assessed content general support in terms of perceived organization
support (POS), and supervisors' and coworkers' social support. These forms of social support
reflect general expressions of (relational and socio-emotional) care toward the focal employees
as well as provisions of tangible assistance to them. Perceived organization support can also
reflect a more domain-specific form (Allen, 2001 and Kossek et al., 2011), captured in this
study, through the lens of work–family culture. Work–family culture (Thompson, Beauvais, &
Lyness, 1999) taps into employees' perceptions that their supervisors and organizations are
supportive of their need to effectively fulfill both work and family roles. It reflects perceptions that
managers care about their subordinates' work–family well-being and provide help, flexibility, and
access to resources that ensures they can effectively fulfill their work–family responsibilities.
Another content specific form of support examined in this study reflects an organization's
practices that encourage employees' professional development and advancement. Provision of
training and development programs and advancement opportunities signal to employees that
their organizations care enough about their professional growth and well-being to invest in them.
In this study, we examined if women who stayed in engineering differed from those who left
engineering on a range of content general and content specific workplace social support such
as perceived organization support, manager and coworker support, supportive work–family
culture, advancement opportunities, and training and development opportunities.
Several studies have documented the positive relationship between perceived
organizational support and lower turnover intentions and higher organizational commitment
(e.g., Eisenberger et al., 1986 and Shore and Wayne, 1993). Similarly, scholars have pointed
that organizations that invest in their employees' training and development, reap the benefits in
terms of more positive job attitudes, loyalty, and persistence (Wayne, Shore, & Liden, 1997).
Another form of organizational support that has shown a positive relationship with favorable
employee attitudes is the supervisors' and coworkers support, in general, as well as supervisors'
consideration of their employees' work-life obligations and responsibilities. For example, studies
have shown that managers' support for employees' work-life roles was related to greater
commitment and lower turnover intentions (Allen, 2001 and Hammer et al., 2009). With a few
exceptions (e.g., Blau, 2007), it should be noted that the relationship between supportive
organizational practices and climate and occupational withdrawal has seldom been explored.
We argue that employees may interpret organizational practices, especially around pivotal
issues like professional growth, development, advancement, and work-life balance, to be
emblematic of practices that are industry and occupation wide. If employees judge that
changing organizations will not alleviate their unsatisfying and unsupportive work conditions,
then they are more likely to leave a particular occupation than persist in it. Indeed, the
engineering occupation has one of the highest rates of occupational turnover compared to other
professions (Preston, 2004). Whether this turnover is to some degree in response to
unsupportive work practices and culture is not fully known and this study seeks to address this
gap in our understanding. Based on the aforementioned theory and supporting research, we
offer the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 5. : Women who leave engineering have experienced lower levels of workplace
social support than women who stay in the field.
2.2. Model of career change
While the SCCT offers a useful framework to assess the personal and contextual factors
that possibly distinguish employees who persist or withdraw from a particular occupational field,
it does not identify any attitudinal or affective factors that drive many turnover decisions. The
negative relationship between intentions to leave the organization and/or the profession and
employee attitudes such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment is one of the most
enduring research findings across many occupations and industries (Holtom, Mitchell, Lee, &
Eberly, 2008). These linkages form the core of Rhodes and Doering's model of career change
as well as other well-established turnover theories (e.g., Mobley et al., 1979 and Hom and
Griffeth, 1995). In this study, we used Rhodes and Doering's (1983) integrated model of career
change to supplement and extend Lent et al.'s (1994) Social Cognitive Career Theory to identify
the affective and attitudinal factors that distinguish women engineers who persisted in
engineering from their counterparts who left engineering.
Rhodes and Doering, in offering their model of voluntary career change, identified job
dissatisfaction as a key driver of employees' intentions to voluntarily move to “a new occupation
that is not part of a typical career progression” (pg. 631). They suggested that person–
environment discorrespondence can lead to lower affective reactions toward one's job and
attachment to the organization. They further noted that organizational factors influence
intentions to leave one's occupation and/or change careers for employees who believe that
changing jobs, but not changing occupations, will not alleviate the basic drivers of job
dissatisfaction. Limited research on occupational change supports the relationship between
occupational change intentions and behavior and satisfaction and commitment with one's
occupation (e.g., Aryee, 1993, Blau, 2007, Blau, 2009 and Rhodes and Doering, 1993). In his
study of medical technologists' occupational change decisions, Blau (2007) observed that
employees who were dissatisfied with their current jobs were likely to change occupations, and
not merely leave their jobs, if they believed that their frustrations with poor pay or work
conditions would also characterize other jobs and positions within the same occupation. Based
on this reasoning, we propose the following:
Hypothesis 6. : Women who leave engineering report lower levels of satisfaction and
commitment toward their occupations than women who stay in the field.
Consistent with early organizational turnover models (e.g., Mobley et al., 1979), Rhodes and
Doering's (1983) model of voluntary career change suggests that intention to leave the
occupation is a precursor to actual withdrawal from the occupation. This link is predicated on
well-established theoretical notions (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) and backed by empirical evidence
(e.g., Griffeth, Hom, & Gaertner, 2000) that a person's intention to engage in a specific act is a
direct precursor to the actual behavior. Research on occupational turnover has not received the
same attention as that on organizational turnover because of the difficulties in collecting such
data (Blau, 2007). Prior research on occupational turnover intentions has surveyed nurses (e.g.,
Nogueras, 2006), medical technologists (Blau, 2007 and Blau and Holladay, 2006), emergency
medical responders (Blau et al., 2008), teachers (Rhodes & Doering, 1993), and human
resource professionals (Snape & Redman, 2003). In a longitudinal study on medical
technologists, Blau (2007) found that both organizational turnover intentions as well
occupational turnover intentions were related to actual occupational changes. In line with the
theoretical reasoning and available empirical evidence, we propose the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 7. : Women who leave engineering report higher levels of engineering turnover
intentions than women who stay in the field.
3b. Embracing Diversity: Showing Students the Pathway (Gary
S. May, Originally published on the Dean’s blog, August 4, 2015)
In the fairy tale the “Pied Piper of Hamelin,” the piper used his magical pipe to lead the rats away from
the town. I often wish I had a magical pipe to lead students to exploring engineering as a major.Some say
there is no shortage of engineers in the U.S. While one can discuss the merits of that argument, let’s be
clear about the fact that there is a shortage of engineers from female and minority backgrounds.
Diversity and inclusiveness are essential in this field – both in gender and in ethnicity.
On August 4, the White House was given a letter from the American Society Engineering Education
(ASEE) signed by more than 100 deans of engineering across the country. I was among the people who
felt strongly enough about the subject to make sure that the White House took notice.
The letter outlined our commitments to diversity and inclu- siveness; the development of K-12 or
community college pipeline activities; and the implementation of strategies to increase the numbers of
women and underrepresented minorities in our faculties. Most importantly, the deans agreed to hold
ourselves accountable to these pledges by making sure we assess our commitments and actions to
determine if we were able to bring about real change.
Attracting women and minorities to engineering (and to other STEM fields), is essential to maintaining
America’s position as a leader in technology innovation. With a homogeneous set of individuals on a
team, potential solutions are inher- ently limited. For innovation to work well, a broad spectrum of ideas is
In the world of atoms and numbers, does the race or gender of the person who studies them really
matter? Yes, it does. Corporate leaders tend to agree on the influence of diversity on innovation. Forbes
magazine surveyed 321 big-company executives on the topic in 2011. Eighty-five percent said that “a
diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive
One company has already stepped up to assist our efforts at Georgia Tech. Intel has set an aggressive
goal of dramatically increasing the diversity of its U.S. workforce and has pledged $300 million over the
next five years to fund the hiring of underrepresented minorities. Georgia Tech is the first higher
education institution to partner with Intel on this initiative. With Intel’s financial commitment, we expect to
support 1,000 underrepresented minority students interested in engi- neering from high school through
I am proud that at Georgia Tech, we have produced the most women, African-American and minority
engineers at all degree levels combined over the past decade. But we can, and will, do more.
For our nation to make up ground, we need to make history. The higher education and private sectors
must combine forces for the purpose of expanding the capacity of under- represented minorities and
women in engineering. Stand- alone initiatives will not solve the problem. We need to coalesce around
the issue, not compete with each other. If we can enhance the participation of all demographics, then the
students, our institutions, and our nation will be the winners.
We can lead in this initiative, but others must follow. While the magical pipe would come in handy, we will
instead issue a call for action. With the proper amount of resources and national will, we can succeed.
Participants in the 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE) which is a 10-week
research program designed to attract qualified minority students from across the country into graduate
school in the fields of engineering and science.
3c. Sexual Discrimination and Women's Retention Rates in
Science and Engineering Programs- Excerpt (Theresa
Despite some evidence that women entering science, mathematics and engineering have
higher average ACT and SAT test scores, women's persistence rates remain considerably lower
than those of their male peers. Persistence rates, in turn, are correlated with low science grades
during the first two years of undergraduate study. This finding begs the question of what causes
such a decrease in science ability among talented young women during their freshman and
sophomore years, women who tend not to drop out of college, but to switch majors. Since
scholastic ability does not predict attrition, research is needed to discover what it is about the
experience of science education that might cause talented young women to question their ability
to succeed and their desire to remain in science. This paper, which focuses on undergraduate
and graduate women's experiences in science and engineering programs, reveals that sexual
discrimination continues to be a significant problem in science education, a problem that is often
underestimated because of a variety of cultural myths. It asserts that initiatives to increase the
numbers of women in science and engineering, which fail to address this problem, will not
realize their desired outcomes.
Women's Experiences of the Culture of Science and Science Education
Research on the culture of science suggests that this male domain is less than welcoming to
women.3 Evidence that this culture perpetuates discrimination against women comes from my
interviews with women at different stages of their scientific careers and women who have left
science, and from my two-year ethnographic study of a life-sciences laboratory.4 Other
evidence comes from a recent study by Elaine Seymour and Nancy M. Hewitt, who interviewed
or met in focus groups with 335 undergraduates at seven different intuitions, with the goal of
discovering all the reasons leading to students' decisions to leave science. Although Seymour
and Hewitt do not list sexual discrimination in their tables of factors leading to women's
decisions to leave science, comments from women in their study suggest it played a role in their
decision-making. Describing their experiences with science faculty, women in these studies
highlight different academic standards for men and for women, different expectations of their
ability, and a continual reinforcement of gender stereotypes, which work to women's
disadvantage: It was common knowledge that he never gave higher than Bs to women.5 They
just don't know how to act with women students. They don't know what to do with you. Their
whole attitude, and facial expressions and body language says,
"You belong in the kitchen. What are you doing here?" They're not allowed to say it, but
you overhear it in conversations. (Seymour and Hewitt 245) He wouldn't let any of us three
women use the machines. I had a friend who round the lab after class to make sure I got the
hands-on experience I should have got in class. But he was real blatant about not letting women
think it was okay to run the machines. (Seymour and Hewitt 244)
Where instructors discriminate against women, or tolerate discrimination by others,
women's comments indicate that laboratory assistants and women's peers do the same.
Discrimination follows along the lines noted above in addition to more off-color jokes and
I was the only woman in a graduate-level physics class with seven men. They would tell
jokes in bad taste, and watch to see how I handled it. Sometimes they would do really lewd
things. They just did it to bother me. And if I reacted, they would laugh at me until I would just
want to kill them. But the professor would just ignore it. He wouldn't intervene to stop it, or to
help me. He'd just say, "Okay; let's get a move on,"- trying to make it as if nothing had
happened. (Seymour and Hewitt 245) You miss having someone to talk to; it's lonely. The guys
are chatting about whatever game they've seen and I'm just kind of by myself. They act like
you're not there.
6 Clearly, men's inability to see beyond women's gender remains a problem for women.
Faculty reinforce traditional gender stereotypes of women as wives and mothers, rather than as
potential scientific colleagues, while peers focus on the issue of women's attractive- ness and
evaluate them in terms of their potential as dates rather than as study partners. Expressing her
frustration, Andrea Dupree, the distinguished astrophysicist observes: "They think, well, if she's
married, she may have a child, or why hasn't she had a child if she's already married? If she's
not married, why isn't she married? I mean, these things really occupy their time. It just outrages
me" (Zuckerman, Cole, and Bruer 122).
The focus on sexuality leads to a hostile, academically unproductive environment for many
women. Commenting on the situation of women in graduate education, Subramaniam and Wyer
write, The silences that surround issues of gender are profound and stifling. The stubborn
persistence of women's second-class status in science and engineering is deeply en- tangled
with unspoken, unacknowledged taken-for-granted practices in the relations between and
among faculty and women graduate students. (16) The continuous focus on gender causes
some women to question whether it is even possible to be a woman and a scientist Describing
the challenges faced by women at MIT in the 1960s, Bix quotes a female undergraduate, who
claims a woman has one "image to live up to and another to live down. She must do better than
average, since the require- ments for girls to enter MIT are stiffer than for men. She must prove
that, for all her supposed brains, she is still a woman, not an oversized tomboy" (31). Sadly, little
has changed in 40 years. Choice of dress illustrates this challenge. On the one hand, women
must dress to avoid emphasizing their sexuality to the degree that their gender becomes more
salient than their ability. On the other hand, they must avoid downplaying their gender to the
extent that they are criticized by their peers (male and female) for being unfeminine and
unattractive. The issue of being found unattractive is of even greater consequence for women
than their male peers because of what Dorothy Holland and Mar- garet Eisenhart have termed
the "culture of romance." According to their research and that of Penny Eckert, men and women
accrue prestige from their peers in very different ways. 172
For men, academic ability and athletic performance are key; for women, sexual
attractive- ness, as evidenced by participation in social activities and ability to attract a high
ranking male are what counts. Ironically, as women negotiate their identities as women and as
scientists, they face the contradictory male attitudes that on the one hand, they are unattractive,
and yet, on the other hand, they only succeed because of their sexuality: What it comes down to
is the pretty girls do something else, and the brainy girls stay in engineering- and I think that
goes beyond engineering... that's just a cultural thing. (Seymour and Hewitt 248)
We were at a party recently and another engineer in her class asked my friend, "So are
you sleeping with the professor? Is that how you do it7" (Seymour and Hewitt 243) The focus on
sexuality, as well as causing identity conflicts, leads to women's exclusion from learning
opportunities that are available to male students.
Women who are excluded from study groups, or are afraid to go to observatories or
laboratories at night, miss out on the learning opportunity such activities provide. Likewise,
women who are not invited by male faculty to take part in field work or share hotel rooms for
fear of tarnishing the faculty member's reputation, lose out on both the learning experience and
informal networking opportunities. Another consequence of sex discrimination is that it may lead
to low self-esteem and plummeting self-confidence. Women's extrinsic sense of self leaves
them more dependent on approval from others and more vulnerable to criticism and isolation
than their male peers, who can more easily dismiss criticism. Even women with strong
academic back- grounds who are told by their professors in science courses that they are
academically weak come to see themselves that way. As a woman's self-confidence plummets,
her academic performance can suffer, which can exacerbate her doubts further about whether
she be- longs in science. Plummeting self-esteem and poorer grades coupled with isolation can,
in turn, lead to depression and intensified feelings of self-doubt, sometimes culminating in a
decision to drop out:
They made me feel that whatever went wrong in the lab was my fault Guys can easily
brush off criticism, but I started to believe them, and wonder if maybe I wasn't cut out for it after
all. Sometimes I really doubted myself in classes... And I started wondering, "Why aren't there
any women here?" and thinking, "Do I really belong here?" (Seymour and Hewitt 309)
As illustrated by the accounts above, whether or not women tell themselves or others
that they are leaving science because of sexual discrimination, it appears to play a role. It
seems probable that discriminatory behavior over time can wear them down, leading them to
question their abilities and desire to remain in science. It can precipitate an identity crisis, loss of
self-esteem and self-confidence, depression, reduced opportunities to participate in the
community of science, and doubt about belonging. Yet many questions remain: How
widespread is sexual discrimination? How large a role does it play in women's decision-making
processes? What is its impact on women's attrition rates? Women's accounts of their
experience with faculty and their peers suggest that sexual discrimination is a fact of life for
The language of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is as follows: No person
in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the
benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving
Federal financial assistance
Yet, almost 30 years later, gender equity has not been achieved. Discrimination leads to
alienation, isolation, loss of confidence, and, directly or indirectly, to a higher attrition rate.
Organizational hierarchies, processes, practices, and distributions of power contain deeply
embedded assumptions about gender that limit women's opportunities and enhance men's
occupational status. The National Science Foundation finds that after correcting for age,
experience, and education, discrimination remains the only explanation for women and
minorities' lack of progress in the sciences (Schiebinger Has Feminism Changed Science? 37).
The scope of success of Title IX is limited by the gap between the prohibition against sexual
discrimination and the eradication of the practice. Moreover, some of the barriers faced by
women in science are either so subtle or so deeply entrenched that they are difficult to
dismantle, even when there is organizational commitment to do so. Due to intentional or
unintentional resistance, gender equity may hinge in the short term upon political means such
as monitoring, reporting, sanctioning, and enforcement by regulatory agencies of institutions
that receive federal grants and awards. In conclusion, while acknowledging the difficulties of
accurately assessing the impact of discrimination on women's retention rates, this paper has
asserted that because of a wide variety of myths, the significance of discrimination continues to
be underestimated. While intensifying recruitment and improving academic preparation are key
to increasing women's enrollment, science and engineering programs that fail to address the
issue of sex discrimination and perpetuate "science as usual" will not realize their full potential in
Note: Please see bibliography to view full article
3d. Attracting More Women to Study STEM In A World Full
Of Geek Dude Stereotypes (Michelle Cheng)
The percentage of women receiving bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering
remain low at 20% and below (Shutterstock)
Half of all science and engineering degrees are earned by women. Does this signal gender
equality in STEM? Many experts and advocates say it doesn’t. While the critical mass of women
in biosciences and social sciences remain high – between 49% and 58% – the proportion of
female students who earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering (20%) is bleak. It’s an even lower
percentage of women in computer science, according to a National Science Foundation report
Women often turn away from these heavily-male dominated fields because they don’t feel as
though they fit or look like they belong, according to a 2015 study from the American
Association of University Women (AAUW), pointing specifically to stereotypes, biases,
curriculum and environment as factors holding back women’s full participation.
It doesn’t help when the portrayal of computer programmer in mainstream culture tends to be
unrepresentative of women. Being the face of CS is rare for a woman. If you look up
“programmer” on Google GOOGL +21.92% Images, you’ll have to scroll a long time before you
see the first image with a woman in it. The highly-acclaimed HBO show Silicon Valley follows a
group of nerdy, male programmers in a startup company. Back in real life, only one-quarter of
speakers at top tech events are women.
“The images in media sort of celebrate the young geeky male,” says Maria Klawe, the well-
respected president of Harvey Mudd College and a computer scientist by training. “There is
typically a small number almost always of male students who have been programming at a very
early age. Everyone, the parents, students then think of computer as a boy thing, [but] girls use
computers and iPads and smartphones as much as boys do.”
The AAUW study also reveals that when it came to career goals, women are more likely than
men to prioritize helping and working with other people; thus, they often turn away from
engineering and computing jobs, which are often perceived as being solitary occupations.
Incorporating communal aspects into the curriculum and outside the classroom can increase the
appeal of those fields to communally-oriented people, many of whom are women.
In the class of 2016, Dartmouth College became the first national research university to
graduate more women (54%) than men in its engineering department. What could account for
its success? Joseph J. Helble, the dean of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, says
that he believes their overall approach to teaching engineering is what’s attracting women to
their program, which is creating a more collaborative, applicable environment and a supportive
Collaborating for Success
Dartmouth places a huge emphasis on hands-on, project-based learning, from the very first
engineering class. “We give all students, including non-engineering majors, the chance to take
project-based design courses alongside of engineering majors, which encourages some
students who did not initially think of themselves as engineers to explore engineering,” says
Helble. “We also encourage them to see engineering, broadly, as a collaborative enterprise
focused on solving real-world challenges.” In addition, the university – where the male to female
ratio is 51:49 – places a high priority in integrating liberal art skills with engineering, to help them
understand and communicate the problems they will face as engineers.