Saraswmathiamma, Manjusha Thekkedathu; Ph.D.
Program of Education;
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University
Understanding the Leaky Engineering Pipeline: Motivation and Job Adaptability of Female Engineers
Major Professor: Dr. Kathy Enger
This dissertation is a mixed-method study conducted using qualitative grounded theory and quantitative survey and correlation approaches. The purpose of the study is to explore the motivation and adaptability of females in the engineering profession and, thereby, to develop a theoretical framework for both motivation and adaptability issues. This study aims to design solutions for the low enrollment and attention of female engineers in the engineering profession, often referred to as the “leaky female engineering pipeline.” This study addresses the following research questions: (1) What motivated the females to select engineering as their career field? (2) How adaptable are the female engineers in the profession? (i) What are the positive aspects of the engineering profession that the female engineers perceive? (ii) What are the negative aspects of the engineering profession that the female engineers perceive? (3) How should a preliminary theoretical framework for motivation and adaptability of female engineers in the engineering field by designed based o the findings (4) How are the different job-adaptability factors correlated to the self-perceived job-adaptability factor of female engineers in the engineering profession? (5) How reliable and valid is the preliminary survey instrument for measuring female engineers’ job adaptability? (6) What do the female engineers’ career, educational, and community-related plans or ambitions reflect about their adaptability in the engineering field? (7) What are the significant adaptability factors identified from the overall study?
Through the qualitative approach 123 female engineers’ profiles were studied, whereas for the quantitative survey 98 completed responses were analyzed. The qualitative, grounded-theory approach applied the constant comparison method: open, axial, and selective coding was used to categorize the information as categories, sub-categories, and themes for both motivation and adaptability. The emergent themes for motivation include cognitive, emotional, and environmental factors motivating female enrollment decisions. The themes identified for adaptability include the seven job adaptability factors motivating female enrollment decisions. The themes identified for adaptability include the seven job adaptability factors: job satisfaction, risk-taking attitude, careers/skill development, family, gender stereotyping, interpersonal skills, and personal benefit, as well as the self-perceived job adaptability factor.
Illeris’ Three-dimensional Learning Theory was modified as a model for motivation of female enrollment decisions. A firsthand conceptual parallelism of McClusky’s Theory of Margin was suggested for the adaptability of female engineers I the profession. Also, designing a survey instrument was attempted to measure job adaptability of female engineers. The study identifies two factors that are very significantly related to job adaptability: interpersonal skills (< p = 0.01) and family (< p = 0/05). Gender stereotyping and personal benefit are the two factors that are somewhat significantly (< p = 0.1) related.