Yanfen Li, Danielle J. Mai, Elizabeth M. Horstman, Rohit Bhargava
Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24584
Publication year: 2015

According to data collected by the National Science Foundation, women were conferred roughly 40% of doctoral degrees in STEM fields from 2002-2012, yet in 2010, women accounted for only 27% of tenure-track assistant professorships in engineering.1 The ‘leaky pipeline’ of women in STEM fields remains an ongoing discussion, with potential causes including student impressions of work-life balance in academia, a lack of role models in engineering, and decreased self-confidence following a doctoral degree. The Graduate Committee of the Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has launched a program to specifically target the gender gap in engineering by improving the strength of faculty position applications from female doctoral students. The Illinois Female Engineers in Academic Training (iFEAT) is a multi-month program designed to strengthen the applications of female faculty candidates. Specifically, iFEAT provides informational resources for prospective faculty candidates through seminars and panel discussions, followed by peer review groups for students to share and review application materials. iFEAT aims to address several causes of the ‘leaky pipeline’ by increasing candidate confidence, introducing students to role models, and changing student perceptions of academic life. The program also aims to foster a supportive community through increased trainee interactions with faculty and peers. The peer review groups also provide opportunities for trainees to learn from each other, find mentors, and establish future relationships. Twelve female doctoral students were selected as iFEAT trainees based on their academic record, standing in their graduate program, and demonstrated commitment to academia. Surveys administered at the beginning, mid-point, and end of the program request trainees to self-report their aspirations and intentions for the academic job search, the progress of their application materials, and their confidence level in the application process. We seek to quantify any changes in the trainees’ goals, perceived preparation levels, and confidence levels throughout the program. As trainees progress through iFEAT and gain information about the application process, we will note shifts in perception of the most challenging and most important components of the application process. We will also monitor any changes in trainee career aspirations, including candidates’ preferred type(s) of institutions and academic positions, plans to conduct postdoctoral research, and anticipated application timeline. Trainees are also given the option to participate in a post-program interview, which is intended to uncover the reasoning behind any confirmations of or major changes in career plans and perceptions. Ultimately, we seek to track student outcomes from the program and uncover factors that may contribute to or prevent the ‘leaky pipeline’ of female engineers in academia.