The Impact of Gender on Female Engineering Students

Toosy, Fesal; Mehmood, Zarqa; Talib, Maria; Siddiqi, Hafsa; Herodotou, Christothea; Poslad, Stefan and Hamid, Khurram (2023). The Impact of Gender on Female Engineering Students. In: 2023 IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering (TALE), 28 Nov - 01 Dec 2023, Auckland, New Zealand.



This Full - Research paper presents the results and analysis of a study conducted at three different universities in South Asia with the purpose of shedding some light on the gender-based disparities faced by female engineering students. STEM, a male dominated field, typically has less than 10% female enrolment in universities. Such a gender disbalance can have a significant effect on both the culture and work dynamics of the profession during and after student life. Studies have been conducted in different parts of the world related to the effects of this gender ratio in engineering. Yet, little research has been done on how this phenomenon affects students in South Asia. In this study, qualitative data was collected from thirty-five (N=35) female engineering students from three different universities. This was done with a semi-structured interview methodology consisting mainly of questions relating to interaction with peers, teachers and university staff. Participating students were also questioned about what kind of support they got from their family and about their awareness of the laws against harassment of women. Data were analyzed using phenomenological research techniques and eventually clustered into six themes. The first theme was ‘Pre-conceived Notions’ that the society in general and men in particular had about young women, and those notions that men (teachers and peers) had about themselves. The second theme ‘Social Relationships’, referred to connections female students had with their peers, teachers and university staff. The third theme was ‘Harassment’. The fourth theme was about ‘Hesitation’ to come forward and complain about inappropriate comments made by their teachers or peers, mostly for fear of retaliation or being singled out. The fifth theme was about awareness of the laws against harassment and related legal rights. The sixth theme was about ‘Support from Family’, including immediate and extended family. Though the issues unveiled in this study are more relevant to Asian cultures, the insights derived from this research could benefit female engineering students in all parts of the world and the development of policies and structures that can empower female students and help to resolve similar issues observed in this study.

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