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  1. Rani Sullivan
  2. Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. Mississippi State University
  1. Jean Mohammadi-Aragh
  2. assistant professor
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. Mississippi State University
  1. Soundouss Sassi
  2. Graduate Research Assistant
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. Mississippi State University

Research Initiation: Recruiting More US Women Into Engineering Based on Stori...

NSF Awards: 1927125

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Undergraduate, Graduate

Welcome to our presentation!

We are on a mission to uncover cultural aspects that influence women to seek degrees in engineering.  We were puzzled why women sought engineering degrees in other countries in equal proportion to men whereas in the US, men greatly outnumber women in engineering.  Since our university has a new group of graduate students coming annually from Morocco due to a partnership program, we began conducting interviews with Moroccan and American men and women engineering graduate students to identify key cultural aspects that enabled them to select engineering as their major.  We are developing a new framework that uses existing Cultural Dimension Theory, based on Hoefstede’s Cultural Dimensions and Eccles’ Expectancy-Value Theory.  Our objective is to identify cultural messaging in order to promote engineering majors.

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (20 posts)
  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 10, 2021 | 08:02 p.m.

    Thank you for viewing our video. 

    This qualitative study explores cultural messaging that influences choice in engineering majors.  We are developing a new framework by combining the existing Cultural Dimensions Theory and Expectancy-Value Theory.  We are very interested in your feedback on all aspects of our project, but especially for the following:

    1. Did this video make you more interested to learn more about our project?
    2. Can you share an example of cultural messaging that may influence decision making with regards to either major or career choice?
    3. We would appreciate comments on our theoretical framework.
  • Icon for: Laura Larkin

    Laura Larkin

    Facilitator
    Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow
    May 11, 2021 | 08:53 p.m.

    Hi Rani-

    As a 1980 mechanical engineering graduate who left the field and became a high school math teacher, this is very interesting research and the video encouraged me to briefly research other countries percentage of female engineers and my conclusion is: What is Morocco doing so differently from most every other country?  The US is about in the middle of the pack for Australia, Canada, Chile, Switzerland, Korea, Japan, France - all between 14 and 26% female engineering graduates.

    Have you found other countries with such a high percentage of graduating female engineers?  Do you know if the female engineers remain in Morocco?

    Cultural messaging I received (which I hope has changed) was the comment "You don't look like an engineer"  making it clear that engineers were not young women.  

    I wanted to get this quick comment and question off to you but I'm off to do more investigation on this fascinating topic!  

     

  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 12, 2021 | 12:42 a.m.

    Hello Laura,

    Researchers in our group are multi-cultural - comparing notes on this issue was the genesis of our project.  From our lit survey, we found that the gender gap in engineering degrees is evident in many European countries (Austria, Finland, Ireland, Germany, etc.).  We found that about 70% of Iran's science and engineering students are women; percentage of women obtaining first degrees in engineering in Malaysia is about 41% and in India is about 27%.  Thus, we began our investigation.

    We have not looked into post-graduation data - future work.

    Great example of cultural messaging.  

    Thank you for your comments.  

    Rani

  • Icon for: Laura Larkin

    Laura Larkin

    Facilitator
    Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow
    May 12, 2021 | 07:56 a.m.

    Hi Rani-

    I will be very interested to read more about your results and the impact of the variables you are studying.  I am currently in an office where we financially support organizations providing early experiences in STEM focusing on underrepresented students which would hopefully excite the tinkering aspect you mention as well as the identity.

    I proved that a little knowledge is dangerous (and leads to misconceptions).  Your work has certainly gotten me interested and I've been doing a bit more reading (still dangerous?).  I found this article from Purdue and very curious what your think about the hierarchy of professions mentioned in the article (1-medicine, 2-engineering, 3-law) and the role of aptitude tests. Growing up in the US, where professions are most definitely gendered certainly impacted my choices. 

    https://engineering.purdue.edu/ENE/News/the-ste...

  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 12, 2021 | 01:23 p.m.

    Hello Laura,

    Although we are familiar with some of this author's research, I have not read the article you reference.  

    Let me get back to you after reading it.  

    Thank you.

     

  • Icon for: Lauren Goff

    Lauren Goff

    K-12 Teacher
    May 12, 2021 | 10:37 a.m.

    I love that you included tinkering in your analysis here. What an essential piece in child development and upbringing, and speaks volumes to one's background and experiences growing into adulthood. Looking forward to hearing more about this project!

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Rani Sullivan
  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 12, 2021 | 06:10 p.m.

    Hello Lauren,

    Tinkering was mentioned by most participants that selected engineering based mainly on personal interest.  '

    Thank you.

  • May 12, 2021 | 01:13 p.m.

    Dear Rani, Jean and Soundouss,

    It is very exciting to hear about your project! My father is an engineer and strongly encouraged my aptitude in physics, mathematics and engineering. I have also received messages about not looking like an engineer. Your work resonates personally and professionally.

    Your project appears to be aimed at graduate students. Would you anticipate the messages K-12 girls and undergraduate women receive to be different from your observations? In addition, in a US context, are there differences in the messages women receive based on other factors e.g. socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, etc?

  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 12, 2021 | 06:06 p.m.

    Hello Kemi,

    This is an exciting project -our research discussions are quite spirited as everyone has a personal story to share.

    In addressing the points you mention:

    1. The participants for this project are primarily graduate students due to the partnership requirements with the Moroccan university.   
    2. Our research goal is to reveal messaging that these students have received in their home country throughout their lives (pre K-12 through the undergraduate years); we are considering the age at which they receive certain communications as one of our factors. 
    3. At this time we are focusing on the differences in messaging that women receive from the two cultures (Moroccan and American). Some of our data may reveal the differences in messaging due to other factors, such as socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity, and this would be interesting for future work. 
  • May 12, 2021 | 02:28 p.m.

    This is a very interesting topic. It has always seemed to me that girls and women in the US get a particularly strong message about females not being good at math. There are a couple of other research strands that seem related to culture to me: (1) the work showing that countries that think of math with a growth mindset vs fixed mindset avoid this trap, and (2) the research showing a strong relationship between countries where implicit association tests don't show a strong math/gender relationship and test scores in mathematics. I enjoyed your video and hearing about your research.

  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 12, 2021 | 06:07 p.m.

     Hello Marcia,

    You make some very good points.  We are taking notes.

    Thank you.

  • Icon for: David Barnes

    David Barnes

    Facilitator
    Associate Executive Director, NCTM
    May 14, 2021 | 09:10 p.m.

    Very interesting.  I like the comparison study.  One question that surfaces for relates to the impacts of teachers and school structures on students.  When you mention math skills are the skills in math valued?  Do we see differences in the number of females in advanced math courses or receiving support from the teachers?  This might also apply to STEM related programs.   From a structural side in the US we tend to track students which can deny access to rich mathematical understanding and a negative self-image of one’s ability to do math at middle school or earlier and is prevalent in high schools.  Is the system different in Morocco and how does that impact women?  You really have me thinking.  Nice work.

  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 15, 2021 | 11:54 p.m.

    Hello David,

    Often, the connection between math skills and their regular use in everyday life is not made effectively.  This connection is necessary to convey their value. 

    You pose good questions and we will consider these ideas as we progress in our  research.

    Thank you for posting.

    Rani

  • Icon for: David Barnes

    David Barnes

    Facilitator
    Associate Executive Director, NCTM
    May 16, 2021 | 03:10 p.m.

    Thanks Rani.  I am very intrigued by your project!  Look forward to seeing more come from it.  -Dave

  • Icon for: Toby Baker

    Toby Baker

    Researcher
    May 16, 2021 | 10:48 p.m.

    This research about women and the influence of their families is fascinating. Thank you for addressing it. Without family role models and encouragement, women in STEM fields will not increase. As a researcher/ co-presenter for IC4, we see a great number of girls pursuing STEM from the US and Africa. We need more research and strategies for changing the cultural mindset about women scientists. Thank you!

  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 16, 2021 | 11:29 p.m.

    Thank you for your comment. 

    We are hopeful that our research will yield greater insight with regards to cultural influences that can be used to increase people, particularly women, entering STEM careers.

  • Icon for: Bahare Naimipour

    Bahare Naimipour

    Graduate Student
    May 17, 2021 | 10:19 a.m.

     Exciting idea. Taking an asset based approach to explore an important issue in the US. Thank you!  

  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 18, 2021 | 05:21 p.m.

    Thank you.

  • Icon for: Bridina Lemmer

    Bridina Lemmer

    Facilitator
    Technical Assistance Consultant
    May 18, 2021 | 05:16 p.m.

    This is fascinating research that is very near and dear to my heart! Cultural influence is such an important factor and as a former middle and high school science teacher I have had many students comment that they can't enter the STEM work force because they "don't look like me." Things have improved over the years, but there is still an undercurrent of belief that STEM fields are male dominated here in the US. I can't wait to hear more about your framework and will keep an eye out for future updates!

  • Icon for: Rani Sullivan

    Rani Sullivan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Richard H. Johnson Chair
    May 18, 2021 | 05:21 p.m.

    Thank you for your comments.

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