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Insights from a First-Year Learning Community to Achieve Gender Balance.

Ieee, W Oakes, M C Hsu, C Zoltowski

UIID-AD: 3906


Engineering remains challenged with regard to underrepresentation by gender and ethnicity. Lack of gender parity in engineering has been a problem since the very start of engineering but conversations about and efforts to address the lack of women in engineering has grown in momentum over the past 30 years. The problem is not only that gender disparity exists, but also an inability to make significant progress in closing the gap over time on a national level. This lack of change suggests that new approaches to understanding the complex problem of underrepresentation of women are needed. Research has advanced our understanding of what can attract women to engineering and retain them within the field. This paper presents data from a service-learning program that aligns pedagogically with the literature on gender and diversity more broadly. Specifically a first-year learning community of 120 students that was 54% female is examined to provide the student perspective. 77% percent of the women cited gaining experience in engineering as a motivation for selecting the learning community. 55% of the women cited the opportunity to impact others with 42% combining the two. Sample comments and quotes from the male and female students are presented and discussed.

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