This engineering education research project seeks to learn why the engineering service organization Engineers Without Borders is successful at attracting a large number of women volunteers and thus better understand the factors that can help recruit women into engineering degree programs. The project uses the constructs of self-efficacy and outcome beliefs to examine why individuals make choices about engineering degree programs and future career paths.

The broader significance and importance of this project will be to potentially inform engineering educators and policy makers about why women, who are significantly under-represented in engineering, are attracted to some engineering organizations but not engineering degree programs in general. The study will also shed light on why women who obtain engineering degrees may choose not use take advantage of that degree by following an engineering career. Given the large personal and societal investment in engineering degrees, this may have far-reaching impact on the number of engineers in the United States.



We encourage use of our methods for expansion and validation of the findings. In addition, if you would like access to the survey data set from our studies, please contact:

Survey Questions  Survey Results

Research Questions

Research Questions

Research Methods

Research Methods


Results are presented below for each of the different data collection and analysis methods.

Open-ended Questionnaires

505 respondents answered an open-ended questionnaire at EWB-USA conferences:


Results from analysis #1:

  • Females showed statistically more identification with EWB-USA than males
  • EWB-USA may be helping members, particularly females, gain a sense of belonging with engineering

Summary of Analysis

Results from analysis #2:

  • EWB-USA supplements needs and fills in educational gaps
  • Females identified engineers’ need for a global perspective more than males
  • Females reported many more gains than males
  • Females more frequently identified gains in technical skills, problem solving, and relationships than males

Top Response Themes (% of respondents)

  Needs Gaps Gains
Technical Skills 56.5 7.1 6.9 (*F)
Interpersonal Skills 31.7 15.7 7.1
Problem Solving 19.8 5 6.3 (*F)
Societal Awareness 18.6 5.4 5.7
Global Perspective 12.8 (*F) 11.1 24.4
Project Management 10.8 9.6 18.5
Experience and Application 10.6 37.6 19.9
Relationships 0.8 1.9 20.3 (*F)
Total n 499 479 492

* Indicatoes statiscally significant difference, p<0.05 by gender, top three responses in bold

Qualitative Research Participants

Research Participants

Survey Participants

  • 2,674 engineers
  • 25% involved with EWB-USA
  • 30% engineering students
  • Solicited from ASCE, ASME, EWB, and SWE

Answers to Main Research Question


  • EWB-USA members and non-members have similar engineering interests, intrinsic motivations, and personality traits of conscientiousness and emotional stability
  • EWB-USA members have broader interests, more altruistic motivations, and are more agreeable & open to experience


  • EWB-USA members and non-members have equivalent perceptions of their level of technical skill abilities
  • EWB-USA members perceived themselves to have higher professional skill abilities than non-EWB members, which may be due to increased complex and contextualized design experiences


  • EWB-USA members and non-members have similar interests in and experience with engineering research and graduate school
  • EWB-USA members have higher interest in and experience with engineering project management, public policy, government or law, and NGO work doing community development
  • Two cautions to the field: EWB-USA students may be disillusioned about work roles available to them, particularly females; EWB-USA members may not find their work roles as meaningful as non-members