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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering


pages 245-264

INTERNATIONAL FEMALE GRADUATE STUDENTS IN ENGINEERING AT A U.S. UNIVERSITY: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST?

Renata Frank de Verthelyi
Department of Family and Child Development, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Wallace Hall 366, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0416

ABSTRACT

Gaining women's full participation in the field of engineering requires a better understanding of the barriers they face as a gendered minority. It also requires researching which personal characteristics and contextual factors facilitate a successful "survival" in the educational pipeline. This qualitative study provides rich insights gained from interviewing 20 international female graduate students in engineering, presently enrolled at a U.S. university. Although the participants came from very diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, the following commonalities were found: education as a central family value, high parental academic expectations and demands for both genders, strong maternal advocacy of the daugther's future career, early choice of the math/science track during high school, enhanced feelings of self-efficacy, positive reinforcement by a small but compatible peer group, and the influence of adult socializers as important contributors to both the initial vocational choice and the ongoing persistence toward professional goals. A comparison with the experience of U.S. female students in the science/engineering (S/E) field, as described by the literature, is included.