A Longitudinal Mixed-Methods Study of Women’s Achievement and Attrition in Undergraduate Engineering Education





Citation of Original Publication

Ireland, D., & Cho, H. S. (2022, August), A Longitudinal Mixed-Methods Study of Women’s Achievement and Attrition in Undergraduate Engineering Education Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41548


© 2022 American Society for Engineering Education.



The proportion of women earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering has increased only slightly in the past twenty years from 18% to 21%, and addressing their persistent underrepresentation in these fields remains a national priority. This paper presents preliminary results of a longitudinal mixed-methods research project designed to advance our understanding of women’s underrepresentation in engineering, by examining the factors that influence their educational outcomes, in ways that are aligned with our understanding of the sociocultural context of engineering education. The aims of this project are to: 1. model patterns of major changing behavior among undergraduate women entering and exiting an engineering program prior to graduation; 2. elucidate the cultural ecosystem of undergraduate engineering education and its relation to women’s achievement motivation; and 3. complicate the discourse on identity in engineering education with an examination of structural modes of power, privilege and inequality within the discipline. In this presentation, we focus on the initial quantitative results of the first aim and provide insight into the ongoing research process for the subsequent aims. We apply descriptive statistics and survival analysis methods to analyze institutional data from a racially diverse sample of 10 cohorts of undergraduate women in engineering programs (N=380) at a mid-sized public research university and address the research question: How are demographic characteristics, major-switching patterns, and course-enrollment factors related to retention and graduation among undergraduate women in engineering? We discuss findings including whether and when background factors such as women’s income, race, high school GPA, SAT scores, and scholarship program participation matter to undergraduate engineering outcomes. Finally, we discuss the next phases of data collection as well the implications of this investigation into women’s academic choices and outcomes in undergraduate engineering education.