Motivation and Adaptability Factors for Females in the “Leaky Engineering Pipeline”


Researchers: Kathy (PI), Achintya N. Bezbaruah (Co PI)

Project sponsors: NDSU Advanced Forward Initiatives (funded by NSF) (12/2009-11/2010)


This project is the fourth phase of a study that investigates the factors that retain females in engineering, either as they pursue their education at the undergraduate level or further their professional career as engineers in the workplace setting. The main goal of the project is to design a research-based model that functions as a transferable and generalizable framework for any program seeking to retain females in engineering. The first phase of the study began as a pilot examining the factors that motivate females to pursue their undergraduate degree in engineering; the second phase of the project examined factors that motivate females to pursue engineering at the baccalaureates level and adaptability measures they employ at the professional level; the third phase used the measures discovered in phase two to design a survey to query members of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) on workplace adaptability measures; the fourth phase of the project will consist of in-depth interviews and analysis of 50 female engineering students and professionals to form a grounded theory of female persistence in engineering. All phases of the project will be brought together to form a conceptual map and model that may be used to create educational and workplace environments that allow females to persist in the engineering field. Altogether, the research to this point has shown consistent factors that cause females to persist in engineering, including interest in mathematics and science, problem solving skills, mentoring, and the ability to help others.