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Do Gender Differences in Undergraduate Engineering Orientations Persist when Major is Controlled?

Harriet Hartman, Moshe Hartman

Abstract


The question posed in this paper is how persistent are gender differences in engineering orientation and achievement, once we control for engineering discipline, cohort, and year in the program. The data come from a multi-year survey of engineering students at a mid-Atlantic public university, which has four engineering disciplines: chemical, civil/environmental, electrical/computing, and mechanical, which vary by proportion of women in them. Using multivariate analysis, we control for gender, cohort, year in the program, and major in the analysis of differences in engineering self-confidence, satisfaction with the core course and interpersonal climate, engineering grades, expectations from the undergraduate degree and long-term commitment to a career in engineering. We then are able to isolate the significant gender differences and interaction effects that persist when these other factors are held constant. We find that gender clearly matters with respect to engineering grades, self-confidence, satisfaction with the core course, and commitment to the engineering career, even when major, year, and cohort (and grades, for all of the other dependent variables) are controlled. However, gender differences with regard to peer integration are insignificant; and there are few remaining gender differences with regard to expectations from an engineering degree. Suggestions for further research are proposed.


Keywords


Gender, Major, Engineering self-confidence, Academic achievement, Commitment to Engineering

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