Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Because women comprise such a small percentage of the engineering student population, the persistence of women in engineering was studied. First, information was gathered about men and women entering engineering at Iowa State University in order to determine if women are different from their male colleagues in their level of academic achievement and in attitude toward and anxiety about math. Second, men and women engineering students were compared in terms of retention rates and reasons for leaving engineering. Third, the effect of special intervention and support for women who have chosen a nontraditional major was ascertained;With regard to academic achievement, women in engineering were either superior to their male colleagues or were not statistically different. For the most part, men and women did not differ in their attitude toward math. When they did differ, women indicated a more positive response than men;Average math anxiety scores for both groups were just beyond the uncertain/undecided range. Since these students are generally very skilled in math, the fact that they responded with uncertainty may indicate that anxiety towards math is a serious academic problem for many students;In terms of retention, women were found to leave engineering at a higher rate than males. The women leaving were academically superior on entry to the males leaving and had been in engineering fewer semesters. Differences for the males and females were found in academic reasons and financial reasons but not in personal reasons or campus concerns;Finally, a support class for women in engineering was evaluated, and results indicate that there may be value in this type of intervention. A positive effect on retention rates, role model awareness, peer support, and awareness of opportunities for women in engineering was noted.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Myrna A. Whigham



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137 pages