Version: 3


Principal Investigator: Mia Ong

Funders: NSF/REE

This engineering education research project aims to significantly contribute to the existing knowledge base about factors that promote and hinder African American, Latina, Native American, and Asian American women in engineering at the undergraduate and early career levels; and to enhance the understanding of promising elements that lower barriers and diversify pathways to, and through, engineering education programs and beyond. Currently, women of color in engineering are severely underrepresented in the engineering workforce relative to their representation in the U.S. population, yet little is known about their educational or early career experiences or how these experiences contribute to their attrition from, or retention in, engineering.

The project has three tracks:

(I) a synthesis of empirical research from the last 15 years on women of color in engineering education; 

(II) analysis of 75 narratives (life stories) by or about women of color in engineering education and early careers; and

(III) an interview study of 24 women of color undergraduates and early professionals in subfields in which they are most underrepresented: aerospace, civil, and mechanical engineering.

By producing a more systematic and comprehensive understanding about what helps and hurts young women of color in engineering education and early careers, findings from this project will practically guide educators and employers on how to diversify their STEM settings and thus cultivate a broader base of domestic talent. Current research suggests that diverse groups' unique backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences have potential to bring dramatically new approaches to discovery and innovation within STEM. Thus, the broader significance and importance of this project arises from how it will help to diversify engineering and thus strengthen the United States' position as a scientific world leader.