Gender Bias Among Male Engineers

Essay by TEE25University, Master's June 2004

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Numerous data have been gathered by many different organizations over the past several decades tracking the number of females obtaining college degrees in engineering. Data maintained by the Society of Women Engineers indicate that as recently as 1966 only .4 % of bachelor's degrees in engineering were awarded to females. The percentage had risen to 18 % by the year 2000 (SWE, 2004). Similarly, data collected by Scientific American Magazine indicate that approximately 22 % of doctoral engineering degrees were awarded to females by the late 1990s (Scientific American, 1998). These statistics clearly indicate a significant influx of women into engineering colleges over the past few decades. Although these are encouraging data, they clearly illustrate a disturbing, ongoing under-representation of females earning engineering degrees.

Many studies have been done attempting to explain this phenomenon. A recent literature review identified no less than 120 empirical and theoretical undertakings related directly to this issue (Leslie & Oaxaca, 1997).

Underlying explanations common to many of these studies and generally agreed upon are based on three main theories (Leslie, McLure & Oaxaca, 1998). These include self-concept/self-efficacy, peer influence and goal commitment. Self concept is simply one's perception of herself while self-efficacy is believe in one's ability to perform a certain behavior (Lent, Lopez & Bieschke, 1991). The significant underlying theme in many of these studies and their underlying theories is that the relatively low numbers of female engineering students are not a result of any fundamental lack of ability among females in mathematical or scientific learning abilities. Rather, the studies indicate that, though females rank equally among males in math and science skills throughout grade school, a complex set of physical changes, emotional changes and social experiences during adolescence combine to diminish their interest in and commitment to the pursuit of mathematical and technical...