There has been abundant research looking at the obstacles faced by women and girls who have an interest in and aptitude for engineering and technology. These studies have provided insight into why women either did not complete their engineering majors or did not go on to engineering careers.
In spite of this research, solving the issue of gender inequity in engineering continues to be enormously challenging. Many talented women are discouraged, for reasons ranging from pay disparities to harassment. This attrition has a tremendous impact on society’s ability to bring many of our most capable individuals into engineering professions. It also affects our nation’s ability to produce enough engineers – at the exact time when the demand for engineering professionals is increasing.
In a new study, DiscoverE, the nonprofit dedicated to sustaining and growing a dynamic engineering profession, flips the question. Instead of asking why women are discouraged, DiscoverE asks: Why are they staying? What are the common factors that motivate young women to remain and thrive in the engineering profession? Why are some young women with a passion for engineering able to persist?
The new collaborative study between DiscoverE and Concord Evaluation Group, entitled Despite the Odds: Young Women Who Persist In Engineering, has uncovered a number of key factors young women consider when choosing and persisting in pursuing engineering careers. These include:
• Interest in and positive attitudes toward engineering
• Recognition of the value of engineering as a profession
• Self confidence that they have the skills and knowledge to do the work
• Self-identifying as STEM professionals: “This is who I am”
• Having a strong support network
• Having the ability to draw strength from personal or cultural experiences and struggles
• Feeling a sense of belonging
“As a leading nonprofit committed to leveling the playing field for girls and women looking to pursue engineering careers, DiscoverE has published this study as a call to action to help to foster collaboration and explore further,” said Leslie Collins, Executive Director, DiscoverE. “We recognize this is only the start of a long investigative journey. Much more research needs to be done. We hope the success stories uncovered through this study can serve as a template so that young women looking at potential engineering careers can more easily make their way forward.”
The full executive summary of the study can be found at www.DiscoverE.org/DespiteTheOdds.