“Oscillating Between Hope and Despair”: A Narrative Case Study of Culture and Coping for Women in Engineering in Higher Education and Industry

Batsheva Guy, Brittany Arthur, Whitney Gaskins, Christopher Cooper


Women in engineering in all phases (students, faculty, and industry) are traditionally underrepresented, and have been underrepresented in the field for decades (Eaton et al., 2020). The United States government has invested in STEM disciplines to address the low presence of women in STEM fields and the STEM workforce (National Academy of Sciences, 2016). Lower representation can be attributed to numerous factors, including a lack of institutional commitment, lack of representation throughout students’ upbringing, inappropriate cultural recruitment/outreach efforts, educational discrepancies throughout PK-12, and social expectations among others (Seymour & Hewitt 1997; Geisinger & Raman, 2013; Camacho et al., 2010; Smith et al., 2012). Not only is there low representation in the field of engineering, but also low retention for students, faculty, and industry due to the same factors that impact representation. The current qualitative study is a narrative case study utilizing relational interviewing. Participants included three women in the engineering field-- an undergraduate student, a professional engineer, and a faculty member and administrator. The key themes we uncovered-- Impact of Dominant Culture; Lack of Belonging/Connection; Justification of Existence; Emotional Turmoil; Coping Strategies—are woven throughout and across the narratives. Actionable change that we hope will come from this narrative study include determining ways we can make the engineering field more inclusive at all levels– in the classroom, on co-op, at universities, in academia, and on the field in industry.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijce.v6i1.5908


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International Journal of Contemporary Education

ISSN 2575-3177 (Print)   ISSN 2575-3185 (Online)

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