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Workforce & STEM

Study: Why Women Stick with Engineering

In "Despite the Odds: Young Women Who Persist in Engineering," a literature review undertaken with Concord Evaluation Group, nonprofit DiscoverE uncovered several "key factors" that young women consider as they're choosing to pursue and persist in engineering:

  • Showing an interest in and holding "favorable views" of engineering;

  • Seeing the value of the field of engineering as a profession;

  • Demonstrating self confidence that they have the skills and knowledge to do the work of engineers;

  • Self-identifying as engineers or other kinds of STEM professionals;

  • Having a strong support network, among family, friends and role models;

  • Being able to pull on their own experiences of struggle to overcome problems; and

  • Feeling a sense of belonging in the community of engineers.

DiscoverE leads a network of volunteers in the United States that help people discover engineering. It claims to be among the pioneers to reach out to girls specifically as future engineers and introduced a "Girl to Engineering Day" (Girl Day) in 2001.

The report noted that young women have "many opportunity windows"during which the intervention of role models, particular kinds of messaging, involvement in engineering activities and the use of student-centered learning "can have a significant impact on her choices and persistence."

"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 Executive Director, Leslie Collins, in a statement. "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 report work was funded by a grant from the United Engineering Foundation. UEF also presented DiscoverE with a grant to support one of its flagship programs: the Future City competition. That draws some 45,000 middle schoolers internationally to dream up, research, design and build cities of the future.

The nonprofit also received financial support from the Motorola Solutions Foundation to support its Girl Day and Global Marathon, a series of online discussions designed to connect and empower women in engineering.

Further details are available on the DiscoverE website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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