In a globally competitive economy, a diverse workforce is crucial for providing creative viewpoints, producing innovative products, and increasing financial returns. Additionally, having equal participation of individuals from different social identities can lead to equitable distribution of resources and create inclusive environments. Sadly, a problem of underrepresentation of women in engineering professions exists. In 2021, women comprised 14 percent of the engineering workforce. Women also receive fewer college degrees in engineering than their male counterparts. To increase the number of women in the engineering workforce, higher education administrators need to invest in initiatives that positively affect the graduation rates of females in this field. Research indicates how the presence of female faculty can influence women's choice of major and serve as role models and mentors (Bettinger & Long, 2005). Borrowing from the fields of public administration, the theory of representative bureaucracy suggests that a larger representation of individuals from a particular demographic background at an institution can lead to beneficial outcomes in the interest of that demographic group (Keiser, Wilkins, Meier, & Holland, 2002; Lee & Won, 2016).
Employing representative bureaucracy as a theoretical framework, we will investigate in this study the relationship between women's representation in engineering tenured/tenure-track faculty positions and the percentage of degrees awarded to women in engineering fields at doctoral universities in the United States. The study will control for institutional factors such as private/public institutions, Carnegie classification, university size, and engineering research expenditures. We use Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression analysis to determine if the percentage of female engineering faculty is positively associated with the percentage of engineering degrees awarded to women at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels when controlling for institutional factors.
The study will draw data from the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE) Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Survey. We anticipate a significant positive relationship between the variables studied. The results of this study can be beneficial for higher education administrators interested in knowing if a greater representation of women in faculty positions can positively affect gender-equitable outcomes such as graduation rates. Future studies in engineering education can implement the theory of representative bureaucracy to study if an increase in other underrepresented groups can create positive outcomes for marginalized populations.
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