Gender and Grade Level Differences in Interest, Perceived Personal Capacity, and Involvement in Technology and Engineering-Related Activities -- Katherine Weber
Katherine Weber is a Lead Writer for the Children's Teaching Materials of the New Apostolic Church International. She is also a gender equity specialist in STEM fields, a state facilitator for the STEM Equity Pipeline Project (http://www.stemequitypipeline.org), and the lead contact for the PA STEM Girls Collaborative Project.
Society has become increasingly technological, demanding that all citizens have a level of technological literacy. In order for this to occur, both males and females must participate in technology-related activities to achieve an adequate level of technological literacy. Despite individual and organizational efforts, females continue to be underrepresented in STEM-related occupations. This is especially true in many engineering-related fields. Jolly, Campbell and Perlman (2004) devised the Engagement, Capacity, and Continuity (ECC) Trilogy. With each factor of the trilogy in place, Jolly et al. found that female representation increased in STEM. The purpose of this study was to identify whether Jolly, Campbell, and Perlman’s (2004) Engagement, Capacity, and Continuity Trilogy could be utilized by teachers in technology and engineering program settings to examine their students’ interest (engagement), perceived personal capacity (capacity), as well as participation in technology and engineering-related activities (continuity). This descriptive study surveyed 556 female and male middle school and high school students enrolled in Technology and Engineering classes. The results of this study revealed that when students indicated a high interest and a high perceived personal capacity, and when they participated in technology and engineering-related activities, they also indicated an interest in pursuing a career in engineering. The results also revealed that the male students continued to be encouraged by technology and engineering teachers, parents, and counselors to pursue a career in engineering more than female students. This startling finding should draw some concern; both males and females should be equally encouraged to consider engineering as a career. Technology and engineering teachers should implement activities that appeal to both males and females. Parents should encourage their daughters to participate in informal learning opportunities to nurture their daughters’ interest in STEM-related areas. Counselors should gain an awareness of the scope and diversity of different engineering fields so they can advise both male and female students to consider careers in engineering. In order for the United States to be competitive and innovative at the global level, female representation and contributions in STEM fields must increase.