Women Dropouts in Engineering Studies

By Andrea Wolffram, Wibke Derboven and Gabriele Winker.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

During the past decades many studies have investigated access barriers for women in the field of engineering studies. However, the analysis of women dropouts in engineering education remains an almost under-investigated research field in Europe. Most studies of dropouts at universities do not consider the situation in engineering studies – especially through a gender lens. The study presented in this paper broadens dropout research by integrating the gender perspective and makes recommendations for the improvement of study conditions for women. By using qualitative research methods, we gained withdrawers’ personal explanation constructs, rather than normative knowledge of the reasons for dropping out. The findings of our interviews with 30 female and 10 male withdrawers from technical degrees in particular expose the need to take a closer look at the ambiguity of the learning culture at technical universities. This paper presents five types of withdrawers. Each of them shows specific conflicts caused by mismatches between the characteristics and social practices of the students and the existing learning environment at university. Several specifics of the academic culture of technical degrees are deduced from these mismatches, which cause student attrition among women in particular.

Keywords: Gender Inclusion and Exclusion in Technical Fields, Women Dropout in Engineering Education

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.95-102. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 722.746KB).

Dr. Andrea Wolffram

Postdoctoral research fellow, Work-Gender-Technology, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany

I studied social science at the Universities of Ratisbon and Hanover and went on researching and teaching at the Universities of Brunswick and Hamburg with focus on higher education and occupation in the field of Engineering, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and gender research. In 2003 I obtained a Dr. phil. at the University of Brunswick, writing my doctorate thesis on “Women in Engineering Studies”. I have been a postdoctoral fellow at the Hamburg University of Technology since 2003. I've carried out research about technical attitudes and interests of students in engineering studies. Currently I'm working in a project about female dropouts in engineering studies. Since 2003 I am also working on my postdoctoral lecture qualification dealing with gender constructions in the development and use of technology.

Wibke Derboven

Research fellow, Work, Gender, Technology, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany

I studied engineering science at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. I have been working at the Hamburg University of Technology since 1987. My researching and teaching activities focused on topics like participation, knowledge management and learning theories. Since March 2003 I have been working in the Working Group “Work-Gender-Technology”. Currently I'm researching in our project about female dropouts in engineering studies.

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Winker

Professor, Work-Gender-Technology, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany

I have been a professor for occupational science and gender studies at the Hamburg University of Technology and the head of the Working Group "Work - Gender - Technology" since March 2003. My research priorities are Internet research, technoscience, flexible work patterns - particularly from gender perspectives.

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