A community based participatory research study into why some girls don't 'Do' engineering

Jane Andrews*, Robin Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


One of the main issues faced by British Society today is reflective of the fact that there is a documented shortage of young people selecting a career in engineering. This is particularly the case when it comes to young women, many of whom simply don't consider engineering to be suitable for women. The reasons for this are well documented but are undoubtedly worsened by the fact that only 6% ofUKEngineers are female. Taking into account previous studies focusing on the issues of gender in engineering, a community based participatory research approach was adopted in which the reasons why teenage girls fail to view engineering as a viable future study or career option were explored. Two 17 year old female high school students were trained as participatory researchers and employed to conduct semi-structured interviews with their peers. A thematic analysis of the data was undertaken whereupon two distinctive themes emerged in relation to how girls' perceive engineering. The first theme reflected girls' lack of knowledge about what engineering is, whilst the second was related to their views of engineering as a potential career. Verbatim quotes are used throughout the paper to give the teenage participants a previously unheard 'voice' in the debate about gender and engineering. The paper concludes by arguing that although engineering has much to offer young women in terms of a potential future career, the main issue is that they lack awareness of what engineering is and what engineers do.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2415-2425
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016


  • engineering
  • gender issues
  • participatory research
  • teenage girls


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