We Are Thriving: Increasing the Number of Women in Engineering
This is a summary of my research this summer at UNL. I worked with Dr. Mojdeh Pajouh and we explored what factors allow women to thrive in engineering. We hope to use these factors to inspire other women to go into the field and create a framework for how institutions can support the women in their undergraduate engineering programs.
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[00:00:01.740]My name is Kate and I'm a psychology
major at Amherst College.
[00:00:06.000]This summer, I'm doing research
[00:00:07.380]at UNL with Dr. Mojdeh Pajouh.
[00:00:10.440]The title of my research
is "We Are Thriving:
[00:00:14.130]Increasing the Number
of Women in Engineering."
[00:00:19.200]This is the research question that's
been guiding my work this summer.
[00:00:23.820]It is, "what are the
[00:00:27.870]and institutional factors that
have allowed women to thrive in
[00:00:33.930]Now, why do we care about
[00:00:37.110]the number of women
thriving in engineering?
[00:00:42.600]Here are some statistics from
the society of women engineers.
[00:00:47.160]They found that only 30%
[00:00:49.320]of women who get bachelor's
degrees in engineering
[00:00:52.350]remain in the field 20 years later.
[00:00:56.700]out of all of the bachelor's degrees
awarded in engineering each year,
[00:01:01.830]women only earn 20% of them.
[00:01:05.310]These numbers are very low
[00:01:07.290]despite 40 years of efforts to
increase the number of women.
[00:01:12.450]With all these low numbers, previous
researchers have looked at the question,
[00:01:17.850]"Why do women not pursue engineering?
And why do they leave the field?"
[00:01:24.100]From this research they've
compiled a list of negative
[00:01:27.460]experiences women have had in
the field. The sexism, biases,
[00:01:32.140]and harassment they received.
[00:01:34.990]As you can imagine, this only deters
[00:01:37.810]women further from going into the field.
[00:01:41.020]I don't know about you, but
[00:01:43.100]discrimination and harassment does not
make me want to pursue engineering.
[00:01:48.290]Thus, we're trying to create a
more positive dialogue focusing
[00:01:52.790]on the women who are
thriving in engineering.
[00:01:56.180]We want to look at the
[00:01:58.910]that allow these women to thrive and to
create a framework for the universities
[00:02:03.590]to implement policies
that support these women.
[00:02:09.620]there are many other underrepresented
groups in engineering,
[00:02:12.950]but we can only focus on one. Yet,
[00:02:17.000]by just focusing on this one
group, on women, we'll have a large impact
[00:02:21.890]on the field.
[00:02:23.990]Increasing diversity at all,
brings in new perspectives
[00:02:27.590]and ideas that push others
to think more critically.
[00:02:31.520]This is vital in a field
[00:02:33.110]like engineering that is based off
of innovation and new ideas.
[00:02:39.390]Now this summer I've worked
with preliminary data to
set the framework for when
[00:02:43.820]the real data collection
begins this fall.
[00:02:47.330]These preliminary data
[00:02:48.800]are interviews from two
[00:02:53.360]are women who are selected and
identified as women who are thriving in
[00:03:00.250]Since we're the first to
do research like this,
[00:03:02.860]we're able to set the definition
of thriving. We define
[00:03:07.060]thriving as a woman who has been on a
project team for two to three years.
[00:03:12.580]Project teams are extracurricular groups
that allow women to do engineering
[00:03:17.470]outside of the classroom.
[00:03:20.020]They show that the women have a
passion and drive for engineering,
[00:03:26.020]that they pursue an activity
[00:03:27.460]that can take up much of their free
time, and may not necessarily be the most
[00:03:31.540]welcoming environment, but they do
it because they love engineering.
[00:03:36.910]So each woman
[00:03:37.660]conducted three interviews and I coded
the interviews to create three different
[00:03:43.720]These code books list and explain themes
observed throughout the interviews
[00:03:48.910]which include personal characteristics
[00:03:51.160]and experiences that shaped these
women as well as policies that have
[00:03:55.990]helped or hurt them.
[00:03:58.810]We'll use this to build
interview questions for the
fall and researchers will
[00:04:03.010]use the code books next year to
code the new data they gather.
[00:04:07.240]This slide also includes all the steps
that will be taken over the course of the
[00:04:11.800]three-year project. I worked
on the first three here.
[00:04:19.430]We have found both women had similar
experiences and personal characteristics.
[00:04:24.980]Both women had
[00:04:26.090]supportive families that push
them to not be afraid of failure.
[00:04:31.280]This led the woman to be involved
[00:04:33.830]in more challenging situations,
often in male dominated spaces.
[00:04:39.800]Through these situations
[00:04:41.360]they experienced gender
biases and discrimination.
[00:04:45.740]This caused them to carefully
consider their identities,
[00:04:49.670]how others perceive them
[00:04:50.930]and how they'd like to be perceived.
[00:04:54.080]Both women decided they
don't want to be seen
[00:04:57.320]as just female engineers.
[00:05:00.770]They want to be identified as
engineers - and good ones at that.
[00:05:05.960]Through embracing this identity, they're
willing to remain in project teams,
[00:05:10.670]despite sometimes hostile environments,
and eventually become leaders.
[00:05:19.250]While in leadership positions,
[00:05:21.200]these women implemented policies
that helped younger students.
[00:05:27.420]They implemented informal mentoring
for the younger team members,
[00:05:31.560]they provided support, and
they acted as role models.
[00:05:37.800]learn from this and try to create
more formal policies for mentoring and
[00:05:42.240]supporting these women. Since
the research is ongoing,
[00:05:46.920]we don't have a concrete framework
for the policies yet, though we hope to.
[00:05:53.570]And that's a major limitation
of the study. It's only preliminary
[00:05:57.320]data right now, with a small sample size.
[00:06:00.590]And so no formal conclusions can be drawn
[00:06:05.090]In the fall, researchers will conduct
[00:06:07.100]interviews with women from
four different universities.
[00:06:10.640]Each university with a unique environment,
[00:06:14.030]specialized policies, and
varying levels of funding.
[00:06:18.920]This further research will
[00:06:20.480]allow us to draw more formal conclusions.
[00:06:24.920]Now to recap,
[00:06:27.740]we hope by looking at
the women's personal
[00:06:30.050]characteristics and the institutional
factors that have allowed them to thrive,
[00:06:35.540]we'll create a more positive dialogue.
[00:06:38.990]We believe this dialogue will increase
the number of women in engineering
[00:06:44.300]retain them in the field to help
improve engineering as a whole.
[00:06:49.820]And I would just like to thank
[00:06:51.110]everyone who has made this research
possible. Thank you so much.
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