The power of interest: minoritized women’s interest in engineering fosters persistence beliefs beyond belongingness and engineering identity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Backgrounds: This study examined how developing an engineering identity through the interplay between interest, recognition, and performance/competence beliefs and establishing a sense of belonging supported women’s persistence beliefs in engineering. Persistence belief in this study is captured through women’s certainty of graduating with an engineering degree. Students’ levels of motivation, affective states, and actions are based on what students believe to be true. Data were gathered from a survey administered to engineering students at nine institutions across the USA. Only female engineering students were used in the analysis. Students were further grouped into categories based on the representation of their race/ethnicity in engineering; 121 women were identified as minoritized in engineering, and 252 were identified as part of the majority group in engineering. Structural equation modeling was used to understand how the development of an engineering identity and modes of belonging (i.e., belonging in the major and in the classroom environment) supported women’s certainty to graduate with an engineering degree. All latent constructs were examined for measurement invariance; partial measurement invariance was achieved. Equality constraints on the structural paths of the model were not enforced to allow for differences across groups. Results: Seeing oneself as an engineer (i.e., internal recognition) did not support minoritized women’s certainty to persist toward degree completion, whereas this internal recognition supported majority women’s persistence. Belonging in the major and belonging in the classroom environment did not support minoritized women’s certainty to persist. Establishing a sense of belonging in the classroom environment supported majority women’s certainty to persist. Minoritized women’s persistence toward degree completion was supported by their interest in engineering and their confidence in performing well in engineering coursework. However, interest in engineering was two times more influential toward minoritized women’s persistence than their performance competence beliefs. Conclusion: These findings provide educators with a nuanced understanding of how identity development and modes of belonging differentially affect women’s persistence beliefs. These findings suggest that educators need to understand the powerful influence minoritized women’s interest in engineering has on their persistence beliefs and create mechanisms to continuously reinforce interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
JournalInternational Journal of STEM Education
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Belonging
  • Engineering identity
  • Interest
  • Minoritized women
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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