Work in progress: A qualitative exploration of female undergraduate decisions to specialize within engineering disciplines

M. Teresa Cardador, Karin Jensen, Kelly J. Cross, Grisel Lopez-Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


While engineering has long been recognized as one of the most highly and persistently sex segregated occupations in the US, researchers have also begun to recognize patterns of intra-occupational sex segregation within engineering, such that gendered roles and career paths exist in the engineering profession [1-3]. Men are more frequently in the most technical roles (i.e., those that rely almost exclusively on technical rather than professional skills). These roles are often perceived as the highest status and most characteristic of real engineering (and are also stereotypically masculine), and women in the less technical roles that are perceived as lower status and are stereotypically feminine [1, 4, 5]. This under-representation of women in the most technically-oriented roles within engineering may be problematic given that female engineers in more technically-oriented career paths have better retention and wage equality outcomes [2, 3, 6]. Despite the benefits to female engineers of remaining in technical roles and career paths within the profession, there is evidence that women are more likely than men to be engaged in more social versus technical work activities [3], and to rate themselves lower than men on professional identity traits valued in engineering (e.g., problem solving and technical leadership) [7]. While researchers have noted patterns of intra-occupational sex segregation in engineering, to our knowledge minimal research has examined when and why these gendered career patterns begin to emerge, nor have researchers systematically examined the gendering of elective tracks in engineering education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1644
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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