On Gender Disparity in Engineering Academia

Toosy, Fesal; Raza, Farah Naz; Zafar, Maria; Zaheer, Ayesha and Herodotou, Christothea (2022). On Gender Disparity in Engineering Academia. In: 2022 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), IEEE.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1109/FIE56618.2022.9962602


This Research, Full Paper presents a study that sheds some light on the gender related disparities that women face in engineering academia. STEM has always been a male dominated field with, for example, less than ten percent women in electrical engineering jobs, a figure that continues in academia, but dwindles when it comes to senior academic positions at universities. Though studies have uncovered that such disparities exist in academia, little is known about difficulties that female engineering university teachers face in low- and middle-income countries in South Asia. In this study, twenty-five female (N=25) and eighteen male (N=18) university teachers from the electrical engineering and computer science departments of three different universities in Pakistan were interviewed, using a semi-structured interview methodology. The interviewees had between one and twenty five years of teaching experience, holding junior teaching positions, all the way to Professor. Interview questions were mainly related to job responsibilities, tasks assigned, authorities given to them and comparisons to male colleagues. Data collected was analyzed using phenomenological research techniques, with different meaning units listed and then clustered into seven common themes. Challenges related to gender disparity in academia were mainly reported by female participants. Only five of the women in this study had persevered despite challenges and had either improved or were in the process of improving their qualification. These were also the women that seemed more driven and claimed to have had more support from their family, home and from the workplace. The rest of the women were somewhat uncertain about their professional progress and preferred to remain in their ‘comfort zone’ i.e. at a lower rank and lesser salary. The importance of this study is in the fact that it highlights the problems that female academics face in a region of the world where such studies are few and far between. Though women university teachers in Asia and the Middle East could relate more to these problems, the insights gained from this study could benefit women in this profession in any part of the world.

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