Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Let not kid ourselves, men and women are different in every respect: Understanding Women Continued Underrepresentation in the Engineering Profession

Department

Sociology Department

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities

Abstract

Numerous programs have been developed and implemented to encourage women to enter and remain in engineering, yet in comparison to other fields (e.g., natural sciences and medicine) the numbers of women who complete undergraduate training has stagnated at a low level and women remain disproportionately likely to leave the profession. This paper draws on the experiences of 36 people trained in engineering (18 men and 18 women) living in Alberta, Canada to explore the factors that continue to limit equal participation in the profession. In semi-structured, in-depth interviews participants, who both remained in and had left engineering, spoke about their careers and views on retention in the engineering profession. In addition to confirming that the masculine nature of the profession acts as a barrier, this study reports on three beliefs held by participants that reinforce the underrepresentation of women: 1) that differences between men and women are natural and rooted in biology; 2) that being an engineer is an inherent element of one personality; and 3) that individuals are responsible for their success. These findings suggest that the masculine culture of engineering is so resilient because of these underlying beliefs, such that if biological sex determines one abilities and interests, and being an engineer is both a calling and masculine, then to be a female engineer is implicitly unnatural. These beliefs, it is argued, also intersect with the dominant notion that choices and success are up to the individual thus the acceptance of any structural changes that would alter the masculine culture to encourage women entry as women are further precluded.

Conference Name

Connecting Circles: Research/Activist Knowledge in the 21st century

Conference Location

Santa Ana Pueblo, NM

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