The Roots of Science, Mathematics and Engineering Self-confidence in College Students: Voices of Successful Undergraduate Women




Torres, Anthony
Talley, Kimberly Grau
Martinez Ortiz, Araceli

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American Society for Engineering Education


With the percentage of women in STEM majors at _____ University, a large Hispanic Serving Institution, significantly lower than the percentage of women attending the university in general, the authors sought to understand this gap by studying the perspectives of undergraduate women who have successfully persisted in a STEM field of study at the same university. Specifically, the goal of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of what experiences women credited for influencing their self-efficacy, the development of their career interest goals and their academic course outcomes as related to studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This study was also designed to identify experiences that appear to contribute to women’s identity development and self-confidence. Data was collected and analyzed to identify if similar patterns exist between subjects and if so, which are the greater influencers in their decision to select a STEM major and to persist beyond the critical first two years of undergraduate studies. The literature of socialization and identity development as related to women as STEM learners in diverse communities is reviewed. This study begins to create an understanding of how women think about their multiple social identities (field of study, gender, culture, etc.). Focus group strategies for obtaining in-depth feedback regarding young women’s attitudes, perceptions, motivations, and behaviors is discussed. Observations and recommendations regarding the 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition / Women in Engineering Division research methodologies for study design and data analysis are presented with particular attention to the rationale for cultural responsive practices in qualitative research. A mixed methods research approach including the use of surveys and focus groups was used to collect student perceptions from junior and senior status students in STEM fields of study. Preliminary results indicate that students identify early personal experiences as building their self-confidence and contributing to their identity development. Drawing on self-perception theory, women appear to develop a more robust sense of persistence and feel that they fit into STEM- even when faced with sexism from other students.


This paper was originally presented at the 2015 American Society for Engineering Education annual meeting. © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education



Talley, K. G., & Martinez Ortiz, A. (2015). The Roots of Science, Mathematics and Engineering Self-confidence in College Students: Voices of Successful Undergraduate Women. Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. doi:10.18260/p.24911


Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering
Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching
Engineering Education