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Professional identity development : men and women persisting in the technical field after graduation

Tegeler, Helena (2018) Professional identity development : men and women persisting in the technical field after graduation.

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Abstract:In the Netherlands, currently around 14% of all graduates in higher education pursue technical studies, from which only one in five is female. Furthermore, around 40% of those students graduating in the field of STEM do not subsequently enter the technical labor market. The problem is that, until now, it is not clear why such a small number of men and especially women in the Netherlands choose the STEM field and stay in the field after graduation. This study aims to research the differences and similarities between male and female technical alumni in their professional identity development. Life history interviews have been used to gather information from early childhood on about the life experiences of eight male and six female technical alumni who persisted in the technical field after their graduation from a university and a university of applied science. In doing so, the interviews are focused on the participants’ study and career choices, other aspects that may have had an influence on such choices and the identity status of the technical alumni. The data has been analyzed through a pre-existing coding scheme. Men and women are compared to each other in order to answer the research question. Results show that males and females do follow a similar way towards the field of engineering and they build their professional identity in similar ways. Women reported on exploring their professional identity to a greater extent than men did. The females showed broader interests and tended to get different support from relatives, friends and acquaintances than the male technical alumni. Women who were already interested in the field of STEM seemed to choose the field when they were supported to decide based on their interests, on their own and on getting to know all different career possibilities. Men, instead, appeared to decide for the technical field when the support from friends and relatives confirmed their intentions. Whereas gender issues were reported to be irrelevant for the female technical alumni, some experiences were mentioned indicating a kind of denial and minimization of the gender issue. However, in order to fully understand why such a small number of men and especially women in the Netherlands choose the field of STEM and for staying in the field after graduation, more research is needed. To conclude, this study provides insights into the professional identity development of those male and female technical alumni persisting in the technical field after graduation. It also serves as evidence that more research is needed to prevent the industry from a lack of skilled employees.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:81 education, teaching
Programme:Educational Science and Technology MSc (60023)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/77115
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