The taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation (NSF) is shelling out over $500,000 to the University of Michigan to fund research regarding whether female engineers are targeted with microaggressions by male engineers; and if so, whether those microaggressions have negative effects on female engineers.
The study’s premise is that engineering is stereotypically a masculine field, which would predictably lead to “microaggressions” toward the relatively few women who enter the field.
“Because engineering is cast as a masculine field, women engineering students can experience subtle yet pervasive stereotypic messages in their learning environments that can negatively influence their experiences. This early stage research project will identify specific behavioral manifestations of gender stereotypes—microaggressions—and their cumulative effect on learning, performance, and persistence in introductory engineering course teamwork. Such microaggressions may cause the climate of the team to become less welcoming to women. The proposed research unites two areas of strong research interest (social science research on gender stereotypes and engineering education on teamwork and climate) to advance understanding of women’s underrepresentation in engineering as compared to men.”
The goal of their research project is “to identify and reliably measure microaggressions in both lab-based and classroom-based engineering student project teams.”
They want to find out whether female engineers’ exposure to these microaggressions “increases perceived stereotype threat and diminishes a sense of belonging…leading to a gender gap favoring men in the important engineering outcomes of learning, performance, and persistence.”
Researchers will videotape engineering students in an effort to identify the different types of microaggressions – “e.g., ignoring women’s contributions or assigning women to less important tasks.”
The NSF granted the University of Michigan $548,459 to study gender microaggressions in the engineering field over a three-year period. The study officially began in September of 2014, and it’s projected to conclude in August of 2017.