WOMEN IN ENGINEERING: MAKING LIFE BETTER FOR ALL
Halpin, G., Benefield, L.D., Halpin, G. and Johnson, T.E., Auburn University, USA
If life is truly to be better for all in the years to come, women must take their places alongside the men in the world of work. Nowhere is this need more apparent than in technical fields such as engineering, yet women are underrepresented in what has typically been a male-dominated profession. To have the women engineers needed in an increasingly technical society, it will be imperative that sufficient numbers matriculate into and graduate from schools and colleges of engineering. Research in the field shows that such is not generally the case. This study was designed to identify characteristics and capabilities of women engineering students who successfully complete their chosen programs of study and become practicing engineers as contrasted to those who fail to do so by choice or because of poor academic progress. Participants were 252 women enrolling as freshmen in pre-engineering at a large university in the USA. Their characteristics and capabilities were assessed upon entrance to the university, and their progress was monitored using both quantitative and qualitative assessments. Analyses of the resulting longitudinal data were used to profile those who successfully moved through their engineering programs as contrasted with those who did not. The significance of the differences observed was determined. The contrasting profiles will be presented and significant differences highlighted. Implications for engineering education and the world of work will be discussed.