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Abstract

In an investigation of (non-international) undergraduate students’ experiences with their engineering major, we interviewed 10 young women asking questions about their interactions with instructors, academic successes/struggles, and any challenges they felt they had faced as women/girls in engineering. Initial findings echoed those in previous research serving to affirm held notions of interventions that would improve women/girls’ experiences in engineering. In reflecting on the research methods and troubling its design, we realized that we had approached the data with limited perspectives. A new approach to analysis opened up concepts and yielded findings that offer a different course of action for abating the STEM crisis. Identity/being and becoming for our participants were framed in reference to different entities and were intermingled with themes of prestige, proof of self, and womaness. Our study invites us to look for solutions to recruitment/retention problems in creative ways. More camps, role models, or extracurricular involvement do not meet the supports these women/girls need. Instead of striving for proportionality, perhaps we should shift the conversation to address the multidimensional ways of being constituted and reconstituted by discursive practices that are always already generating gendered positionings. Let’s equip our students and colleagues with ways of recognizing and questioning these entanglements, not in order to solve a problem, but rather to work through a problem and think more about the processes of being and becoming.