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2018 Activities: Graduate Student Research Team

Jennifer DeBoer

2018 was a busy year for our graduate student research team!  This year was primarily focused on data analysis of the focus group data collected in Jordan, Tunisia, and Malaysia. 

First, graduate research assistants Zahra Atiq (Purdue University) and Sarah Morton (Washington State University) finished stage 1, which was the qualitative coding of focus group data for all three countries (Jordan, Malaysia, and Tunisia).  Stage 1 began when Sarah wrote a Python program to split the focus group data by participant, and both Sarah and Zahra implemented this programming.  Qualitative coding involved reading through all of the focus group transcripts, highlighting small “data bits,” and labeling these portions of data.  Data bits typically consisted of groups of words, but went up to two or three sentences at the most.  We accomplished the qualitative coding using Dedoose software, which is qualitative analysis software that is used for the qualitative coding of interviews and focus groups.  This task resulted in many codes; some of the countries had over 2000 codes!  As you can imagine, this task took a lot of time, but it was very interesting to read the focus group transcripts and learn about women’s experiences in engineering in the three countries. 

After the qualitative coding was completed in June 2018, Zahra was finished with the project, but we added three additional graduate student researchers: Andrea De La Barrera Montppellier (Washington State University), Daeyeoul Lee (Purdue University), and Aziz Dridi (Purdue University).  These researchers and Sarah Morton worked on Stage 2 of the project, which was categorization.  Categorization consisted of looking at all of the codes from Stage 1 (qualitative coding) and placing them into small, labeled groups.  The end product of this stage was a category book containing the category names, descriptions, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and example codes.  The Purdue and WSU teams worked together on categorizing the Malaysia undergraduate student codes while training on categorization, but we worked in analyst pairs for the remaining units of analysis.  The principal investigators checked our work throughout Stage 2, with at least two principal investigators assigned to each unit of analysis. We completed Stage 2 primarily in google sheets and Microsoft Excel.  We are very close to finishing all of the units of analysis in Stage 2.

Lastly, the Purdue and WSU graduate student researchers began preliminary work for Stage 3, which is creating mind maps to show the relationships between categories.  We are using XMind software to create these mind maps. 

As you can see, 2018 was a productive year for our graduate student research team.  We look forward to where 2019 takes us!

ASEE 2018 Presentation

Jennifer DeBoer

Back in June, Dr. Jennifer DeBoer of Purdue University presented our conference publication titled “Women’s Motivation to Pursue Engineering Education and Careers: a Case Study of Malaysia” at the 2018 ASEE conference in Salt Lake City, UT.  The authors on this paper (in order) were Zahra Atiq, Sarah Morton, and Drs. Nehal Abu-Lail, Ashley Ater Kranov, Julie Kmec, and Jennifer DeBoer. 

This paper was a case study of female engineering faculty and practicing engineers, and had the goal of examining the choices informing these women’s trajectories into academic versus industry work.  There is very little prior research on what factors impact choosing an academic versus industry career in engineering in general, let alone gender differences in these choices.  Our case study helps fill this research gap.

Our data came from focus groups involving 22 female engineering faculty and 16 practicing engineers affiliated with Malaysia’s top engineering school.  Our findings were very interesting.  First, we found that a passion or desire for teaching, the appropriateness of teaching for women, and the compatibility of an academic career and family were among the factors mentioned by the engineering faculty that pulled them towards an academic engineering career.  Second, the practicing engineers mentioned that salary and other benefits attracted them to an industry career over academia.  These women also mentioned having to prove themselves as female engineers in industry, but that the outcomes of these trials were ultimately rewarding.  Lastly, more positive attributes were attributed to academia than industry, such as academia being more intellectual and less corrupt than industry, or industry being inherently dirty.  However, the practicing engineers in our sample perceived industry as more exciting than academia, pulling these women towards industry careers despite the other perceived disadvantages.

We hope to use this work to further understand why women choose to go into and persist in engineering, whether the choice is educational or career oriented.

Did You Know Female Engineers Are More Common in Muslim Countries Than in the United States?

Jennifer DeBoer

Written by Teuta Hoxha on October 6, 2016

Female engineers are more common in Jordan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia than in the United States – the enrollment rates of women in these countries are as high as 50 percent and many of us wonder why.

To find an answer, Washington State University researchers have been given a $589,200 grant to try and understand why a significantly higher number of women in predominately Muslim countries choose to study engineering than in the USA...