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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

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.v15.i2.40
pages 167-190

WHO'S PERSISTING IN ENGINEERING? A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF FEMALE AND MALE ASIAN, BLACK, HISPANIC, NATIVE AMERICAN, AND WHITE STUDENTS

Susan M. Lord
Department of Engineering, University of San Diego, USA
Michelle Madsen Camacho
University of San Diego, USA
Richard A. Layton
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, USA
Russell A. Long
Purdue University, USA
Matthew W. Ohland
Purdue University, USA
Mara H. Wasburn
Department of Organizational Leadership, College of Technology, Young Hall, Purdue University
My area of interest is Women in STEM Disciplines

ABSTRACT

Interest in increasing the number of engineering graduates in the United States and promoting gender equality and diversification of the profession has encouraged considerable research on women and minorities in engineering programs. Drawing on a framework of intersectionality theory, this study recognizes that women of different ethnic backgrounds warrant disaggregated analysis because they do not necessarily share a common experience in engineering education. Using a longitudinal, comprehensive dataset of more than 79,000 students who matriculated in engineering at nine universities, this research examines the question: How does the persistence of engineering students (measured as enrollment to the eighth semester) vary by disaggregated combinations of gender and race/ethnicity? Findings reveal that for Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, and White students, women who matriculate in engineering are most likely to persist in engineering compared to other eighth-semester destinations and, except for Native Americans, do so at rates comparable to those of men. Thus, contrary to considerable popular opinion that there is a gender gap in persistence, the low representation of women in the later years of engineering programs is primarily a reflection of their low representation at matriculation.