Factors that Influence a Woman's Choice to Remain in or to Leave a Male-dominated Major

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Grounded theory methods of Strauss and Corbin (1990) and multidimensional scaling techniques (Kruskal & Wish, 1991) were used in this investigation to study the factors that influence a woman's choice to remain in or to leave a male-dominated major (Zuckerman, 1981). Focus group interviews were conducted with 62 sophomore women who had originally chosen male-dominated majors as freshmen to gain insight into the meanings and motivations of the student decisions. The participants responded to a 25-item survey which yielded a-three dimension solution with five clusters in the multidimensional scaling analysis.

Five themes emerged from the focus groups as factors influencing a woman's choice to remain in or to leave a male-dominated major: (a) self confidence and refuse to lose attitude; (b) interest in the field; (c) career goals, jobs, and money; (d) ability and experience in the field; and (e) the desire to make a difference. The three dimensions were (a) time of experience, (b) motivation, and (c) career rewards. The five clusters were: (a) pre-college experiences, (b) college experiences, (c) career rewards, (d) self-confidence, and (e) self-fulfillment.

The findings are consistent with current literature; however, the use of the multidimensional procedure goes further and helps to explain some of the motivations of the students and challenges some of the beliefs that persons in the practice of student affairs profess about woman and chilly climate. The study extends knowledge about how women deal with their chilly environment.

women in engineering, male-dominated major, chilly climate