"You have no life other than that, so you better like what you're doing": a feminist phenomenology of women in undergraduate engineering majors

Update item information
Publication Type dissertation
School or College College of Education
Department Educational Leadership & Policy
Author Mcdonald, Lori K.
Title "You have no life other than that, so you better like what you're doing": a feminist phenomenology of women in undergraduate engineering majors
Date 2016
Description The purpose of this study was to describe the perceptions and experiences of female undergraduate engineering students who either switched their majors or stayed in engineering to graduate. Historically women are underrepresented in undergraduate engineering majors despite deliberate recruitment and retention strategies employed over the last several decades. A more complete understanding of their experience is needed if these strategies are to be improved. A phenomenological design was used within a feminist analytical framework to seek a better understanding of how the process of women deciding to stay in or switch from the engineering undergraduate majors is experienced. In-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted with seven participants who were selected through purposeful, opportunistic sampling. Two of the participants remained in engineering the whole time, two stopped out and returned to engineering, and three left to switch to other majors. Phenomenological analysis strategies resulted in structural and textural descriptions of the essence of their experience. Participants made meaning of their experience in terms of being a student in a challenging major which required the use of academic survival skills to cope with the intensity, being one of a few women that required constant though not always conscious negotiation of difference, and discovering what made them happy with the major or switching to find a sense of fulfillment in another field. Three major themes emerged from these findings which were 1) how critical connections between the students and faculty, staff, other students, and family and friends were sources of both contention and support, 2) that the gender negotiation that they experienced was always present but not always pronounced, and 3) that these women experienced both internal and external influences of constant pushing and pulling which created a complexity to every decision that they made. Implications for policy, practice, and future research included recommendations for required academic advising, more flexible curriculum offerings for returning students, and research into the concept of happiness as it relates to major choice.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject engineering; undergraduate; women
Dissertation Name Doctor of Philosophy
Language eng
Rights Management ©Lori K. Mcdonald
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 2,396,673 bytes
Identifier etd3/id/4259
ARK ark:/87278/s63b97jc
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2016-10-11
Date Modified 2017-11-07
ID 197804
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s63b97jc
Back to Search Results