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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

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

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2012003031
pages 97-113


Heather T. Rowan-Kenyon
Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02467, USA
Alexandra Coso
School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0150, USA
Amy K. Swan
Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (CASTL-HE), Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904, USA
R. Reid Bailey
School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904, USA
Marie F. Creager
School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 23284-3068, USA


This study examines the role of gender in students' perceptions of their own leadership skills, as well as those of their peers, while working as members of interdisciplinary engineering teams. A mixed methods approach was utilized and included Bolman and Deal's leadership orientations survey (L.G. Bolman and T.E. Deal, Leadership Orientations Instrument, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1990), focus groups utilizing the Midwest Flood Problem (Atman et al., J. Eng. Educ., vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 234−245, 2008) and individual interviews. The study concludes that male and female students might have different understandings or perceptions of what "leadership" means. While men preferred the structural leadership frame and women preferred the human resource leadership frame, more detailed information about this differentiation became apparent with the inclusion of the qualitative data. For male students in this study, leading was more about directing teamwork, running meetings, and project oversight. For female students, leading was about facilitating collaboration among team members, being responsible, and contributing to the team. These findings show that more development of students as leaders working in teams needs to happen during the collegiate engineering experience, as a majority of students are not able to utilize multiple leadership frames in a situation, which is necessary when working on complex and cutting-edge engineering problems.