Education practices influence women engineer shortage, study finds

December 30, 2008

As the need for engineering professionals grows, educators and industry leaders are increasingly concerned with how to attract women to a traditional male career. A new University of Missouri study found the impact of the engineering curriculum and obstacles, including self-efficacy and feelings of inclusion, can impede women's success in the predominantly male discipline of engineering.

MU researchers examined the role of self-efficacy, the belief in one's capabilities to execute the course of action required to produce desired goals, to understand why women continue to be under-represented in engineering. Their findings suggest a strong sense of self-efficacy, especially for women students who are under-represented in engineering classrooms, can help students persist and succeed.

"Efficacy applies to any situation; it is particularly important in choosing and executing constructive action in situations that can be barriers to successfully achieving the ultimately desired outcome," said Rose Marra, associate professor of information science and learning technologies in the MU College of Education. "In engineering, these barriers might include negative stereotypes, active discouragements by peers or faculty, or scoring poorly on a calculus exam."

In the study, Marra evaluated 196 undergraduate women engineering students throughout a two-year period at five public institutions in the United States. The researchers examined the students' engineering career expectations, self-efficacy, feelings of inclusion, efficacy in coping with difficulties and math outcomes efficacy. The assessment provided a better understanding of students' overall self-efficacy.

"We compared the students' assessments from each year. The results indicate that women students show positive progress in some self-efficacy measures, but they show significant decrease in progress on feelings of inclusion," Marra said. "We hope that the results of the study can be used to influence engineering education practices, both in and outside of the classroom, which can impact the success of women studying engineering."

Marra's study, "Women Engineering Students and Self-Efficacy: A Multi-Year, Multi-Institution Study of Women Engineering Student Self-Efficacy," which will be published in the January Journal of Engineering Education, also found a relationship between ethnicity and feelings of inclusion, which Marra hopes to examine in future studies. The study was sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Explore further: Apple more than doubles hiring of women and minorities

Related Stories

Participatory design in Kenya's oldest slum

August 5, 2015

In a landmark project with UN-Habitat, a team of Cambridge researchers has designed a community centre in one of Kenya's biggest and oldest slums, and its future users are now raising funds to build it.

An ally for the understudied Y chromosome

August 3, 2015

Alexander Godfrey, a PhD student in biology at MIT, is acutely fascinated by the Y chromosome, which confers maleness. This chromosome is often considered a genetic castaway—because its complexity makes it very difficult ...

Major step for implantable drug-delivery device

June 29, 2015

An implantable, microchip-based device may soon replace the injections and pills now needed to treat chronic diseases: Earlier this month, MIT spinout Microchips Biotech partnered with a pharmaceutical giant to commercialize ...

Recommended for you

Just how good (or bad) is the fossil record of dinosaurs?

August 28, 2015

Everyone is excited by discoveries of new dinosaurs – or indeed any new fossil species. But a key question for palaeontologists is 'just how good is the fossil record?' Do we know fifty per cent of the species of dinosaurs ...

Fractals patterns in a drummer's music

August 28, 2015

Fractal patterns are profoundly human – at least in music. This is one of the findings of a team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and Harvard University ...

Pigments, organelles persist in fossil feathers

August 27, 2015

A study provides multiple lines of new evidence that pigments and the microbodies that produce them can remain evident in a dinosaur fossil. In the journal Scientific Reports, an international team of paleontologists correlates ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.