Asst. Prof. Kacey Beddoes
has won a prestigious National Science Foundation grant to study gender in engineering workplaces – and to find ways to promote a more inclusive and diverse workforce.
“Nearly 40 percent of women leave science and engineering within their first five to 10 years on the job.” -Asst. Prof. Kacey Beddoes
"Nearly 40 percent of women leave science and engineering within their first five to 10 years on the job," she says. "We need to better understand why they leave."
Beddoes, who is in the Sociology Department
, will recruit equal numbers of women and men as study participants this spring as they get ready to graduate from college. She will look at the workplaces where they start their careers and then follow them during their first four years in the workforce, interviewing them every six months and having them complete a survey once a month.
The study participants will be recruited from national listservs, where Beddoes hopes to enlist civil engineering graduates who are also racially and ethnically diverse. She will look at their social interactions at work, how welcome or excluded they feel and any barriers they encounter.
Beddoes says that while an enormous amount of time and money has been spent over the last four decades on attempts to get more women to pursue careers in science and engineering, equity is still elusive. In her view, that’s because nearly all the research on the topic focuses on women as the location of the “problem,” rather than on gender biases in institutional cultures and policies.
“My research focuses on majority populations as well,” Beddoes says. “Both the research and the interventions will be about men and masculinity as much as women.”
Beddoes earned a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech, along with graduate certificates in Women’s and Gender Studies and Engineering Education. She followed that with postdoctoral fellowships at Purdue and Oregon State universities. She is in her third year as a professor at UMass Lowell.
The grant, which was awarded by the NSF’s Engineering Education and Centers program, includes an educational component. Beddoes will make recommendations, based on her study results, to improve civil engineering capstone classes.
“This is a great way to strengthen my understanding of issues women might face in the workforce and to help the members of SWE,” she says.
Two honors students will be joining Beddoes’ research group this year. Management information systems
major Sherlin Thomas will work on a project about global engineering, while David Mendelsohn, a bio-cheminformatics
major, will work on an interdisciplinary teamwork project.