Repository logo

Culture matters: factors affecting the persistence of European American and Asian women in two U.S. engineering doctoral programs




Hosoi, Stefanie Aki, author
Canetto, Silvia S., advisor
Borrayo, Evelinn A., committee member
James, Susan P., committee member
Nerger, Janice L., committee member

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Over 50% of the students enrolled in engineering doctoral programs in the U.S. are foreign nationals, with the majority of these students coming from Asian countries (primarily China, Korea, India, and Taiwan). The present study was designed to better understand the factors that affect the persistence of women in engineering doctoral programs in the U.S., while explicitly examining how differences in students’ cultural backgrounds might influence the factors they perceive as important to their educational persistence. Individual interviews lasting 62 to 98 min were conducted with 16 participants enrolled in two U.S. universities. Ten of these participants were U.S. citizens of European American descent, and six were foreign nationals from five Asian countries (China, Korea, India, Taiwan, and Singapore). All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim, and then analyzed by team of trained coders using Ethnographic Content Analysis (ECA) as a qualitative framework. The results are discussed in two chapters. The first chapter focuses on the perceived challenges described by the 16 study participants, and shows that social contexts and psychological responses to these contexts interact to create challenges to persistence on an engineering educational career path. In the second chapter, factors that participants perceived as promoting their persistence on an engineering educational and career path are described, including both external support structures and psychological factors that motivate persistence. Similarities and differences between the themes that emerged from interviews with U.S. and Asian participants are discussed in both chapters, highlighting the implications of these themes for the development of interventions aimed at increasing women’s representation in doctoral level engineering careers. This paper concludes with a General Discussion, in which I provide an additional theoretical structure to these findings by examines the themes that emerged from the interviews in the context of Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT), and discuss the limitations of this research.


Covers not scanned.
Print version deaccessioned 2022.

Rights Access


Women engineering students
Women in engineering
Women in science
Ethnicity -- United States -- Case studies


Associated Publications