UCSD Research: Girls’ Attitudes About Achievement
Can Influence Drop-Out Rates
than 120 people attended the Sophomore Recognition Banquet to
encourage female students to continue their endeavors along
a rewarding career path.
Bioengineering Professor Sangeeta Bhatia is determined to learn why
college women are dropping out of science and engineering majors in disproportionate
numbers. She and collaborators psychology professor Gail Heyman and human
development major Bryn Martyna recently conducted a survey among 238 UCSD
students. Their findings show that many female engineering majors believe
aptitude in engineering is an innate skill, while men feel that it is
learned. The study will be published in the upcoming Journal of Women
and Minorities in Science and Engineering. “
Many women in engineering have been told all their lives how good they
are in math and science so they tend to believe their aptitude is something
they are born with. When they encounter difficulty, it can be devastating
because their very identity is brought into question,” says Bhatia.
The study also reveals that female students feel they are held to higher
scrutiny, while male students think women receive more breaks. This gender
tension feeds into women’s sensitivity to perceived failure and ability
to succeed in a team-oriented environment.
The researchers conclude that providing female
students with positive role models at critical junctures
in their college career may help retain women in
engineering. Among other initiatives, Bhatia has
encouraged the UCSD Chapter of the Society of
Women Engineers to start a recognition banquet
for sophomores during which successful female
engineers describe their careers and how they were
able to overcome obstacles. This year, Sally Ride, the
first female astronaut, founder of Imaginary Lines,
Inc., and UCSD physicist, spoke at the event.