How She Persisted: Working Women Engineers' Experiences in and Perceptions of Engineering

Rebecca Hite, Heather Greenhalgh-Spencer, Michela Insenga

Abstract


Despite progress in engineering careers, gendered underrepresentation remains. Research on gender disparity suggest that women engineers have varied experiences both prior to and within their engineering careers, influencing their perceptions and persistence. The bulk of prior research has focused on women who losing interest prior to entering engineering fields. Yet, there is much to be learned from research from women who persisted, meaning they are currently working in the field as an engineer. This study recruited 46 female engineers from engineering firms and academic departments in the US and UK to participate in a survey querying sources of their engineering capital and habitus (per Bourdieu) and perceptions of engineers and the field. Participants reported academy resources (courses, internships, professors) and family as important. Women held positive perceptions of engineers and engineering, citing their use of non-cognitive skills (e.g. creativity, critical thinking) and improved social outcomes (e.g., betterment, impact) from engineering.

Keywords


Bourdieu; Capital; Habitus; Perceptions

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