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Exploring Women’s Experiences of Choosing and Studying Engineering and Navigation: A case study

Liz Hodgkinson, Asiya Khan, Sam Braide

Abstract


Women remain underrepresented in UK engineering, constituting only 11% of the engineering workforce in 2017 (WISE, 2017). This paper summarises the findings from two focus groups. From a total of 12 participants, the groups explored the experiences of undergraduate women engineering and navigation students at the University of Plymouth. Our aim was to identify ways in which we might support the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in these disciplines. By identifying common experiences, it was possible to illustrate how women as a group experience engineering and navigation differently to men. Our findings support those of many other studies and include the “non-visibility” of engineering as a career option for girls and women, and the need to adopt a range of strategies in order to fit in and claim an authentic identity as an engineer, rather than a “woman engineer.” Participants were sceptical about initiatives overtly contrived towards helping women to progress in the disciplines, as these can be perceived as constituting a form of positive discrimination against male students with the added concern that male students view them as such. Future research and possible initiatives are discussed.


Keywords


Engineering; Navigation; gender; student experiences; under representation

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