From UMASS: via phys.org: Women in STEM “Study finds female students less likely to drop engineering program if female mentored”

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University of Massachusetts

phys.org

May 22, 2017
Bob Yirka

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A pair of researchers with the University of Massachusetts has found evidence that suggests women are more likely to continue to pursue a degree in engineering if they have a female mentor. Nilanjana Dasgupta, an instructor, and her Ph.D. student Tara Dennehy paired first-year female engineering majors with older mentors for a year and then looked at the impact mentoring had the decision to continue pursuing their degree as they moved into their second year. They have published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Far fewer women than men receive bachelor’s degrees in the STEM fields (just 13 to 33 percent), despite women comprising approximately 56 percent of all students attending college in the United States. Dasgupta and Dennehy note that the disparity is most notable in engineering. They suggest the reason that women choose to drop out or to change majors is because many such environments are unfriendly, or even hostile to female students. Quite often, female students are made to feel as if they do not belong. They note also that some efforts have been made to make such environments friendlier, but thus far, little progress has been made. They wondered if female students in such fields might benefit from having a female mentor. To find out, they enlisted the assistance of 150 people (male and female) working as engineers to serve as mentors for 150 female engineering students during their freshman year. The students met with their mentor once a month and were interviewed by the research pair three times during their first year and then again, a year later.

The researchers found that the female students were much more likely to continue to pursue their engineering degree if they had a female mentor, but not if they had a male mentor (18 percent of them dropped out) or no mentor (11 percent dropped out). They report that all of the female students given a female mentor chose to continue with their major their second year. They also note that mentoring appeared to have a lasting impact, as most of those assigned female mentors reported plans to continue with their engineering degree into their third year.

See the full article here .

See also How Women Mentors Make a Difference in Engineering

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