Understanding the decision to major in engineering among women

Emily H Sabato, University of Pennsylvania


The United States currently lags in degree attainment in STEM fields compared to other industrialized nations. This issue is particularly significant in engineering, where demand for educated workers is expected to grow 10 percent in the next decade, well ahead of the rate of increase in engineering degree production. Women are enrolling in college at a higher rate than men, and continue to be underrepresented in engineering despite persisting at similar rates to men, indicating a difference in the choice of major process for men and women. This study sought to develop knowledge regarding the process by which women choose to major in engineering. Data about the decision to major in an engineering field were collected from interviews with first and second year female college students and analyzed with qualitative methods. Student interest in fields related to engineering such as math and science was the main influence to select an engineering major for study participants. Participants showed a strong preference for math and science in high school, and were often influenced by family or school personnel to select an engineering major. Participants considered potential future job opportunities when selecting to major in engineering, and to a lesser extent, earnings potential. For participants in this study, the perceived benefits of an engineering education exceeded the expected expenses.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Sabato, Emily H, "Understanding the decision to major in engineering among women" (2014). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3682408.