Alumnae reflections : the impact of early exposure, a sense of belonging in the major and connection to engineering
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Despite efforts to increase female participation in STEM majors, women continue to be an underrepresented population in this domain, impacting the U.S. workforce. Researchers have identified a variety of factors that benefit engineering students without regard to gender (mentoring; student-faculty interactions; co-curricular involvement) but research is limited on how female engineering students foster a sense of belonging to the engineering major helping them persist through to graduation. Negative factors like gender bias or stereotyping are detailed in extant literature. Research needs to identify ways that contribute to female engineering connection and sense of belonging in engineering, not solely focus on the factors that negatively impact female engineering student trajectories. In an effort to address this gap in the literature, interviews with alumnae who graduated from engineering colleges across the U.S. were conducted. Data from this study provides a glimpse into what helped foster successful navigation through engineering majors for alumnae. Expanding current female and STEM literature, participants provide insights on pre-college, college, and on career influences.