Female Underrepresentation in Undergraduate Education: Case study in School of Engineering

Diana Starovoytova Madara, Sharon Cherotich


It is an eminent and established reality that worldwide, women are underrepresented in science, engineering and technology (SET) subjects in university education. Concerns about underrepresentation of females in the SET fields in Kenya have been raised and expressed by the government and various organizations for a long time. Equal representation between men and women in SET, and particularly in engineering, is crucial, as it would help in better reflection of the needs and interests of both sexes and provide a superior and more diverse talent pool to the economy and workforce of the country. The goal of the current study is to merge an examination of gender disparity in enrolment and progression at the School of Engineering (SOE), Moi University (MU) with reviewing current interventions to attract more females to university programs in Kenya. This analysis is based on retrospective longitudinal data (2003-2014) for engineering programs-level admission & graduation and institutional-level admission alongside with retention, Engineering parity index and Proportionality index computation. Multivariate regression analysis was used to study association between graduation outcomes and institutional characteristics. The major findings of the study are: While MU total admission is steadily increasing, no explicit trend in total enrolment of SOE was established. Analogous, there is no predetermined pattern in female admission for both SOE (13.9% average) and MU (45.4% average), however they are both skewed in favor of male. The comparison of female admission trends at SOE with other schools of MU revealed that the persistent underrepresentation of females in engineering is perplexing, particularly when female representation in other programs of MU has enjoyed superior improvement over time. Total retention rate, SOE was found to be 0.9 (10% drop-outs). Engineering parity ration was found to be 1.68 %, meaning that for every 59 students admitted to MU there was only one student admitted to SOE. Engineering female parity index was found to be 0.0038, meaning that on average for 260 female students admitted to MU only 1(one) female student was admitted to SOE. The situation in SOE is more distinct as the admission ratio of F/M is 0.143, meaning that for every 7 male students admitted to SOE there was only one female student. These trends suggest that females’ participation in engineering professions is likely to be affected. This gender imbalance presents a missed opportunity and if we are serious about addressing the engineering skills shortage systematic intervention into the education system and graduate supply is required. In this regard, the study made numerous recommendations, the two main ones are: proposal to establish a national policy to attract more females to universities, in general, and to engineering programs in particular; and the second - is using a social media to reach youth, especially females, by establishing and running an “Engineering 101” website/blog/online-forum that is focused and features on engineering and gender.

Key words: Females, Gender underrepresentation, Engineering education, Interventions.

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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