Development of American and Foreign-National Female Graduate Students in Engineering at Research Universities
Morrison, Briana Marie Keafer
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Women continue to be underrepresented among engineering faculty despite decades of reform and intervention. To understand why more graduate women do not pursue careers in academia, this mixed methods study focuses on the experiences of women currently in graduate engineering programs, and how the graduate culture shapes their development and decisions about future careers. The study includes data from 110 U.S. and international women enrolled in graduate engineering programs at research-intensive universities.As women experience graduate engineering programs, their views of themselves and their relationships with others develop. Graduate women who experience engineering cultures that encourage collaboration, confront sexism of any form, value diversity, recognize everyone's achievements, and assess on performance rather than gender tend to develop positively. Women who experience less supportive graduate cultures struggle to develop solid identities, comfort in partnerships, confidence needed to tackle challenges, and self-authoring capacity. Women enter graduate engineering programs from diverse cultural backgrounds, and their backgrounds shape their responses to the culture of their graduate program. International women face additional challenges in U.S. graduate engineering programs and struggle more in their development. Overall, women who experience unsupportive graduate cultures are less likely to form positive views of faculty careers, less likely to identify with engineering, and less likely to have the developmental attributes needed to succeed as a faculty member in engineering. Graduate engineering culture influences women's career decisions both indirectly, through development, and directly, by giving a picture of what an academic career may be like. The findings from the study suggest that practice and policy geared toward increasing the numbers of women among engineering faculty requires cultural transformation that considers the diversity of women who enter graduate engineering programs.