Gendered Interests in Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering: Intersections with Career Outcome Expectations

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The current study finds that female-identified students report stronger associations between “helping others” and interest in bioengineering/biomedical engineering than non-females, while they report less interest in electrical and computer engineering overall, with similar associations to factors such as “inventing/designing things” than non-females. Background: While women have made gains in STEM, electrical and computer engineering programs award 13% of their Bachelor's degrees to women while bioengineering/biomedical engineering programs award over 40%. Prior work suggests that women's persistent under-representation in electrical and computer engingeering may be due to them being drawn into other disciplines. Women persist in engineering at similar rates as men, so a better understanding of early college attitudes is needed. Research Questions: (1) How are career outcome expectations associated to electrical engineering, computer engineering, and bioengineering/biomedical engineering? (2) What are females' interests in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and bioengineering/biomedical engineering? (3) Are outcome expectations and major interests distinct for female-identified students? Methodology: Regression analyses were conducted on multiply-imputed data of introductory engineering students at four public universities in the U.S. Findings: Students associate inventing/designing things and “developing new knowledge and skills” to electrical engineering, and associate inventing/designing things and “working with people” (negative) to computer engineering. Students associate helping others and “supervising others” (negative) to bioengineering/biomedical engineering. Female-identified students are less interested in electrical and computer engineering, more interested in bioengineering/biomedical engineering, and associate helping others to bioengineering/biomedical engineering more strongly.


Integrated Engineering

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IEEE Transactions on Education