Women’s experience in undergrad engineering differs by race

July 27, 2011 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

A new study out of U. Washington found that women of different races had different experiences in undergraduate engineering.  Their data suggest that institutions can’t just recruit “women” as a whole, that different strategies are needed for different female groups.

The study used data collected in 2008 by the Project to Assess Climate in Engineering survey, conducted by UW researchers and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Investigators distributed questionnaires and interviews to undergraduate engineering students at 21 U.S. colleges and universities that were interested in supporting diversity programs. The study received more than 10,500 responses, with higher than average numbers of women and minority students.

“The study’s size gave us a really great opportunity to talk about race, which is usually not possible in engineering,” Litzler said.The UW researchers looked at the aggregate findings to seek overall trends among the responses. Students were asked about such subjects as teaching, labs, student interactions, personal experiences and their perceptions of their major.

“We see important trends in our findings,” Litzler said. “For example, Hispanics reported feeling like they were taken less seriously than other students. African-Americans, not at all.” However, black women reported higher instances of feeling singled out in the classroom because of their race than Hispanic, Native American and Asian-American women.  Another significant finding related to female students’ comfort approaching their professors. Many female students said they were uncomfortable approaching professors with questions, but black women were significantly less likely to report this as an issue.

via Race matters when recruiting, retaining undergraduate women engineers — University of Washington – washington.edu.

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