Understanding the Internship Experiences of Women in Engineering and Computer Science
This session will summarize contemporary research on the internship experiences of undergraduate women in engineering and computer science disciplines and present evidence-based recommendations to career services and employers for better promoting the entry and success of women in these fields.
According to the National Science Foundation, women comprise just 19% of bachelor’s graduates in computer science (CS), and 21% of bachelor’s graduates in engineering. Not only are women underrepresented within these disciplines in college, they are often even more underrepresented in the workplace, especially as women who earn engineering and CS degrees are less likely than men to enter related jobs after graduation. Even more, research suggests that women who do enter jobs in engineering and computing are more likely to leave these industries compared to men.
Given the severe underrepresentation of women in engineering and CS academic disciplines and in the professional workforce, it is important to understand the career development experiences of women in these fields, especially internships. Often, internships represent students’ first exposure to the workplace, and a growing body of work suggests that these early professional socialization experiences can have important implications for women’s career interests and goals, and their longevity in the field.
Through this session, I will share my own research and other existing studies that explore the internship experiences of women in engineering and CS to make recommendations for practitioners who work with these populations. To do so, I will follow the stages of the internship experience and process, starting with position marketing and recruitment and finishing with discussion about converting interns to full-time employees.
To present a deep dive of this topic, I will start by sharing how job descriptions and position requirements can perpetuate gender inequities, including how stereotypically gendered language in job ads can influence women’s perceptions of belongingness and interest in specific positions. Next, I will discuss how internships and recruitment and hiring processes favor men, especially since women are more likely to enter engineering and CS courses and majors later and tend to demonstrate a lower sense of self-efficacy and belonging in these fields. In addition, I will discuss the strengths and challenges of campus, employer, and industry diversity programs and initiatives aimed to target women and other underrepresented groups based on existing research. While such programs successfully provide access for many underrepresented groups in engineering and computing, students who hold marginalized gender and/or racial identities may be hesitant to engage in these opportunities due to concerns about external perceptions of their ability and merit. Finally, I will present vignettes reflecting real examples of women’s gendered experiences in engineering and CS internships for small group discussion. In particular, discussion will explore how these experiences may influence women students, and how campuses and companies can better support women in these scenarios.
Throughout this session, I will invite attendees to ask questions as they arise and will also engage the group through regular discussion questions. Attendees will leave this session with an understanding of contemporary research on the internship experiences of women in engineering and computer science, including key issues and strategies for improving practices in the interest of creating a more diverse workforce. Attendees will also leave with a reference list of current research on this topic for further reading and exploration.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Katie Smith, Seton Hall University