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Women in industrial engineering : stereotypes, persistence, and perspectives
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by C Brawner, M Camacho, S Lord, R Long, Matthew OhlandMatthew Ohland
Backround: Industrial engineering (IE) draws in and graduates women at among the highest rates comparedwith most engineering majors in the U.S. Popular stereotypes suggest this is because IE is “easier”than other engineering majors.Purpose (hypothesis): This research interrogates prevailing assumptions about industrial engineering to explore why undergraduatewomen are drawn to industrial engineering over other engineering majors.Design/methods: Our mixed method approach used three sources of data. Quantitative analyses of a large, longitudinaldataset allowed us to draw empirical generalizations about academic performance, attraction to, and persistencewithin industrial engineering among men and women. We triangulated this with qualitative focusgroup data among women majoring in IE. Finally, we used content analysis of university IE Web sites tounderstand context and discourse.Results: In our dataset, industrial engineering is the only engineering major that gains women and men from thethird semester through six-year graduation and among all race-gender combinations (except Black men).Women in focus groups reveal that they are drawn to IE for a myriad of social factors including: warmth,flexibility, a sense it is more feminine, and career opportunities, among others. Content analysis of Websites reveals that IE emphasizes collegiality and leadership opportunities as intrinsic to the discipline.Conclusions: Using a social capital framework, we showed that the context of IE, including prevailing norms and possibilitiesfor networking, promotes ideologies of success that lead to greater attraction to and persistence within the major.