ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Substantial research over the past few decades has documented the challenges women experience both as students in engineering programs and as professionals in engineering workplaces. Few studies, however, have followed women from one context to the other to explore the ways in which school experiences, and particularly capstone experiences designed to facilitate this transition, do and do not prepare women for their work as practicing engineers. To address this gap, we draw on data from a larger multi-institution study to address the question, “How do women experience the transition from engineering school to engineering work?” Participants for this study are drawn from a larger study across four universities (three mechanical engineering programs and one engineering science program). All participants identified as “female” on a screening questionnaire that included options for transgender and gender-nonconforming, as well as an option to skip the question. The full data set includes interviews with the participants conducted at the end of their capstone design course, responses to open-ended questions sent each week during their first 12 weeks of work, and interviews conducted after three, six, and 12 months of work. To answer the research question, we used purposeful sampling to identify four women whose interviews represented different trajectories across this school-to-work transition; we then used constructed narrative analysis to present their individual stories and identify salient points of similarity and difference for discussion. We also present implications for engineering educators, including that life-long learning should be expected, communication and collaboration are as essential workplace skills as technical competencies, and that gender is not necessarily a homogenizing force. Above all, we emphasize the power of the individual voice in better understanding the experiences of our students.
© American Society for Engineering Education, 2019.
Howe, Susannah; Ott, Robin; Paretti, Marie C.; Hernandez, Cristian; Deters, Jessica; Gewirtz, Chris; Giardine, Francesca; and Kary, Anne, "Women's Experiences in the Transition from Capstone Design Courses to Engineering Workplaces" (2019). Engineering: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.