New research aims to help reverse decades of failed efforts to increase the percentage of women in engineering in the United States by studying nations where the disparity is not as severe: Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.
"The U.S. engineering shortage weakens the country's position as a leader in the global market and restricts the country's capacity to solve key infrastructural challenges," said Jennifer DeBoer, a principal investigator of the study and an assistant professor of engineering education at Purdue University. "For decades, the U.S. government, industry and professional societies have contributed billions of dollars to increase women's participation in engineering with minimal impact. If you look at overall women's participation in engineering it's on the order of 15 to 20 percent. Identifying factors that inhibit the participation of competent and interested women in engineering fields is a precursor to the nation gaining a competitive edge in sectors reliant on science and technology."
One strategy to more effectively attack the problem is to learn from Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, where the percentage of women in engineering careers ranges from 24 to 50 percent.
The project is a collaboration involving researchers from Purdue, Washington State University and Western Washington University Professor of Sociology Karen Bradley. The other principal investigator is Julie Kmec, a professor of sociology and the Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor in the Liberal Arts at Washington State. The team also includes three co-principal investigators.