Two Decades of Interesting and Timely Research

Rachel Morford, FY22 SWE President
Karen Horting, CAE, Executive Director and CEO

Our retrospective includes a breakdown of what we have learned and what progress has been made to increase the representation of women in engineering, both in academia and industry; areas of consensus in the research along with the areas of dissent.

As we do every year, SWE has taken on the enormous task of summarizing broad-ranging, interesting, and timely research about women in engineering. With 20 years of literature reviews behind us, this year we have taken a retrospective view of the last two decades to compile a unique collection of information and analysis, incorporating some of the most relevant research from 2021 into the discussion.

Our retrospective includes a breakdown of what we have learned and what progress has been made to increase the representation of women in engineering, both in academia and industry; areas of consensus in the research along with the areas of dissent. One sidebar of note shows the progress that has been made in academic leadership. In 2001, there were fewer than 15 women serving as deans of engineering. In 2021, that number had increased to nearly 80! Could the National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE program, which has made such a positive impact for women in academia, be a model for moving the needle in industry?

This issue also includes interviews with six researchers whose work has made a significant impact on the women in engineering research arena over the past 20 years. Focusing on a variety of research interests within various academic fields, they reflect upon their work, personal backgrounds, and motivations.

We take a final look at students in community colleges moving into four-year engineering curricula. Phase I of this study was completed and discussed in the 2018 literature review. Phase II, completed in 2019, offers a compelling look at why this pathway toward an engineering degree has the potential to increase diversity in the engineering workforce. Phase III focused on the impact of networking to support women making the transition to a four-year institution. The onset of the pandemic forced the networking to move to a virtual platform, making it difficult to build engagement. Still, the study’s conclusions provide insight into how professional associations like SWE can make a positive impact on women studying at community colleges. We thank the Northrop Grumman Foundation for their generous support of this work.

Shaping the future

The issue provides a glimpse of the preliminary results from “Next Generation Engineers: Examining the Pathways of Adolescent Females in SWENext.” This study was funded by the NSF (NSF Award #2040634) and conducted in collaboration with The University of Texas at Austin. The study examined the gender identities of SWENext members, to shed light on how these young women view their own gender and make sense of prevailing gender norms and roles. Second, it examined whether and how peers and adults provide support and encouragement for SWENext members’ interest in engineering. Lastly, the study examined how these factors help shape girls’ decisions to declare an engineering major in college, as well as their engineering-related self-efficacy and identity.

The articles highlighted here represent only a portion of this publication overall. We encourage you to become familiar with the wealth of information contained herein. Our State of Women in Engineering issue is an important tool on the path of fulfilling the SWE mission and achieving a diverse engineering workforce. We hope you find the information compelling and useful.

Rachel Morford
FY22 SWE President

Karen Horting, CAE
Executive Director & CEO

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