Positive influences of education and recruitment on aspirations of high school girls to study engineering in college

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings

Publication Date



Information on retention and attrition for women in engineering have consistently shown that men are more likely to enroll in college engineering programs compared to women, but that once enrolled, women are just as likely to succeed in engineering education. One strategy to increase women's participation in engineering is to engage girls in science and engineering in K-12. In this paper, we examine high school students' knowledge of engineering careers and reports of recruitment as predictors of student aspirations for studying engineering in college. A group of racially/ethnically, socio-economically diverse students from five urban high schools, with either a science-themed focus or a strong science department, participated in a longitudinal study of retention and attrition associated with STEM outcomes. Preliminary results from 906 students were included in a series of logistic regression models with plans for college study of engineering as the dependent variable. Knowledge of engineering careers, recruitment for engineering, STEM covariates, gender, and gender ideology measures were included as independent variables, controlling for demographics. Interactions between gender and knowledge and gender and recruitment were tested. Our final model showed that students with greater knowledge of engineering and those recruited for engineering were much more likely to report aspirations for studying engineering in college. However, there remained significantly decreased odds for girls having college engineering aspirations, even when moderated by recruitment. More conventional beliefs about masculinity ideology, reported by both boys and girls, were also positively related to engineering aspirations, while conventional femininity ideology regarding objectification of the female body was negatively associated with engineering aspirations. Results suggest that effective efforts to attract girls and women to engineering include explicit education and recruitment regarding engineering careers, and may help foster more gender neutral perceptions about engineering. In addition, our findings suggest that further research is needed to understand ways gender ideology, as conceptualized by individuals and as culturally mediated within specific engineering course settings, inform the quality of participation and aspirations in engineering work for women and underrepresented minorities. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2009.