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Lack of Confidence as Professionals Spurs Women to Leave Engineering, Study Finds

By Chronicle of Higher Education

October 28, 2011

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Women who start college aiming to become engineers are more likely than men to change their major and choose another career because they lack confidence, according to a recent American Sociological Review paper.

The researchers say women lack professional role confidence, which touches on a person's confidence that he or she has the right expertise for a given profession and that the corresponding career path meshes with his or her interests and values. "The more confident students are in their professional expertise, the more likely they are to persist in an engineering major," says Stanford University researcher Erin Cech.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that men were more likely than women to leave engineering if they had plans to start a family. The researchers say that engineering programs should consider engaging in more explicit discussion about professional roles, expertise, and career fit, and provide more opportunities for internships that put students into real-world engineering projects, where students can see the applicability of a broader set of skills such as teamwork.

From Chronicle of Higher Education
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