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Student Life

Survey finds female engineers’ lack of confidence contributes to leaving field

Isabella Delgado, a USF electrical engineering student, said she feels lonely due to a lack of female peers and women mentors.

“It is a bit of a lonely career path for a woman,” Delgado said. “It would be nice to see more female professors.”

The Project on Women Engineers’ Retention (POWER) last March surveyed more than 30 female college undergraduates and found women are less likely than men to remain in the engineering field. The results showed that one in 10 men leave the engineering career field compared with about one in four women who leave by the time they are in their thirties. Because of this, women are still the minority.

To find out why women are less likely to remain engineering professionals, the American Sociological Association (ASA) conducted a 2011 review that found female engineers’ lack of “professional role confidence” contributes to their leaving.

“Professional role confidence refers to one’s own sense that they belong in a certain field,” said Sanjukta Bhanja, a USF professor of electrical engineering.

Nine percent of USF undergraduate electrical engineering majors for the fall 2011 semester are female.

Similarly, 18 percent of masters and doctoral USF electrical engineering students are female, according to a USF information center summary trend report.

“As much as I love engineering, I feel a family is more rewarding than work and would place emphasis on my family,” said Delgado. “I plan to finish with a master’s degree, work for a few years before starting a family and possibly rejoin the workforce if I feel I can balance the two.”

Taylor Morris, a USF engineering undergraduate, initially completed her general engineering credits at the University of Florida. “I was frequently met with doubt and rolled eyes from some of the male students.”

Morris decided to transfer to USF because she had heard that the electrical engineering department had a great reputation for equal and fair treatment of students.

Professional organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers branch of Women in Engineering (WIE) exist to promote empowerment, success and advancement in the field of engineering.

Founded in 1952, SWE aims to provide a forum for women engineers to succeed as a minority in a male-saturated field. Similarly, WIE is the largest international professional organization dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists.

Dr. Bhanja believes her membership in WIE has helped her self-esteem. “It makes me feel connected and has changed my perception of the environment, after realizing many women are in a similar situation,” she said.

About Zoe Stiling

Hi! I am currently a junior at the University of South Florida. I am majoring in English with a concentration in technical and professional writing with a minor in political science. I am entering the world of Wordpress for a class course and charitable cause “One Pencil Can Help Bring Peace”. I am on the USF rowing team and apart of the USF honors college. I am a first generation American of English decent and love to travel. For fun I enjoy reading, running and spending time with my friends and family. My current goal is to maintain my GPA and hard work ethic to prepare for acceptance into graduate school.


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