“Here we come:” The experiences of women enrolled in male-dominated STEM career technical pathway programs at a Midwestern community college

Erkkila, Rachel
Major Professor
Lorenzo Baber
Committee Member
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This research is an exploratory study that focused on describing the experiences of adult students who identify themselves as women enrolled in male-dominated Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) career pathway programs at a large Midwestern multi-campus community college. The study was undertaken to build on the research of women in community college STEM transfer programs and describe self-efficacy as women in male-dominated STEM career programs at a large Midwestern community college.

An examination of the history of women in STEM helps one to gain an understanding of women in male-dominated STEM career pathway programs in community college programs as women are currently enrolling in college at higher rates than men and have earned more than 50% of associates degrees awarded in 2013-14 (NCES). Community colleges provide an accessible educational option and are well positioned to accommodate economic needs (Garza & Eller, 1998; American Association of Community Colleges, 2015). Historically, men have dominated the market for jobs in high paying STEM and CTE fields. Adding to the research about women who persist in these programs and field is important to increase equity in representation.

This research explored the experiences of women in career and technical STEM programs within community colleges. Using qualitative methodology and phenomenological techniques, the researcher sought a social constructivist post-modern worldview that attends to student self-efficacy as grounded in social cognitive theory and social cognitive career theory with a focus on human agency and self-efficacy. Semi-structured interviews were employed for data collection and inductive analysis procedures.

In Lester’s (2010) research, women in these areas indicated family influence, mentorship and self-efficacy impacted their decision to pursue education in male-dominated career and technical programs. The findings of this study also included family as a strong influence, strong belief in one’s ability and a desire to contribute the field of study and the world. This study further contributed to the literature about women in STEM career pathway programs within the community colleges to enhance completion initiatives for this growing student population.