• A Phenomenological Exploration of Women's Lived Experiences and Factors That Influence Their Choice and Persistence in Engineering

      DuCette, Joseph P.; Brooks, Wanda M., 1969-; Walters, Evelyn; Brandt, Carol B. (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)
      Despite concerted efforts among the engineering community – educators, employers, research funders, policymakers, and engineering professionals – to increase women’s enrollment and persistence in undergraduate engineering programs, women’s underrepresentation in the engineering profession continues to persist into the twenty-first century. As a result of this trend, especially given women’s proportion of the overall U.S. population and college enrollment, the need for further investigation of the issue has been well established. While numerous studies have examined this issue, many have done so quantitatively. Therefore, it has been recommended by the engineering community that an expanded use of qualitative methods be considered to address this research gap and add to the scope and rigor in understanding factors that influence women’s choice and persistence in engineering (Koro‐Ljungberg & Douglas, 2008). The aim of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of women in an undergraduate engineering program at a large, comprehensive research university located in the Northeast region of the U.S. to gain a better understanding of factors that help shape and influence women’s choice and persistence in engineering. Lent, Brown, and Hackett’s (1994) social cognitive career theory (SCCT) provided a guiding framework to illustrate how the participants’ educational choice behaviors were influenced by a number of variables related to their personal characteristics, experiences, and environment. To strengthen the study’s credibility member checking procedures were used to authenticate the findings and the interpretation of the participants’ experiences and triangulation methods were used to validate the findings and illustrate convergence in evidence across female student and female faculty participants’ experiences. The findings revealed several recurrent themes across the participants’ experiences that aligned with the SCCT framework, offering a unique perspective of how choice and persistence in engineering took shape for the participants in the study. Themes related to women’s choice of engineering were STEM or engineering exposure, self-efficacy in math and science, engineering outcome expectations, engineering agency beliefs, and pre-college environmental support. Themes related to women’s persistence in engineering were engineering barriers for women, women’s engineering barrier-coping strategies, and engineering environmental support.