The Influence of Climate, Social Networks, and Cultural Models on the Retention of Women and Racially/Ethnically Marginalized Engineers in Graduate School and the Workforce
Effective Years: 2023-2027
This project follows engineering graduate students, professors, and those in industry to learn about their experiences when it comes to the climate they face in engineering and the factors that relate to their persistence. Specially, this research involves multiple explanatory angles to understand persistence, including the knowledge and beliefs engineers have, the people whom they go to for advice and resources, and the climate they experience in engineering. This advances scientific knowledge about the multiple intersecting phenomena that shape social trends when it comes to how the engineering workforce (industry and academia) does not represent the broader U.S. population demographically. This knowledge can help craft more inclusive engineering environments and broaden participation in the field. A more representative engineering workforce can improve society in multiple ways, such as by supporting advancements in engineering practice and education made possible by diverse perspectives therefore making peoples’ lives better both inside and outside of the academy.
This study builds upon an existing dataset, following a previous cohort. The project revisits approximately 2,100 participants from 11 universities who were enrolled in their first year in an engineering degree program in 2014. The previous project followed them for five years through annual surveys and two rounds of interviews with a subsample of 55 women and underrepresented students. In the new project, we follow the large cohort again using two more surveys, and also conduct interviews this time expanded to a total of 120 interviewees. Altogether, the new project expands the dataset into what will become a 12-year longitudinal project that began with students reflecting on their last year of high school to then following them into their first few years of graduate school or engineering occupations. The new project additionally provides outcome information for many respondents from the first study who were still enrolled in their engineering program at their fifth year. Further, the new project introduces added dimensions of identity measures (beyond binary gender as well as sexuality) to further capture how diversity is likely subsequently tied to climate and persistence. Using Ego Network Analysis, Logistic Regression, and Reflective Thematic Analysis, findings from this work can show how institutional climate intersects with cultural models and social networks to impact persistence in ways that likely vary for engineers with a range of identities, including those of race/ethnicity, binary gender, gender diverse, and sexuality.
This project is supported by NSF's EDU Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field. Investments are made in critical areas that are essential, broad and enduring: STEM learning and STEM learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.