An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experiences of female Engineering students at selected Universities in Zambia
MetadataShow full item record
ABSTRACT Although female representation still remains low in the male dominated engineering programmes at university level in Zambia, no study had been undertaken to examine the experiences of female engineering before this study. The study therefore sought to examine the experiences of female engineering students and explore possible ways of providing support to the female engineering students at University of Zambia and Copperbelt University. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems theory was used as the framework for the study. The framework provided the basis on, and perspective from, which to understand how ecological systems in the environment that the female engineering students live in influence them. Qualitative research was used and the study was situated in the interpretivist philosophical framework. This study took an ontological stance that reality is subjective and not fixed but varies from person to person. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used because this method focuses on understanding lived experiences of participants from the participants themselves. A sample of 14 fifth year female engineering students was selected using homogenous purposive sampling. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews. The study found that female engineering students’ school and home experiences such as encouragement from significant others in form of parents and teachers shaped the mathematics and science positive self-concept which ultimately influenced them to study engineering as well as shape their positive engineering self-concept. At university, some female engineering students experienced intimidation in the male dominated environment both at student and faculty levels while others experienced social isolation and limited peer network. The female engineering students experienced positive discrimination in form of affirmative action of lowering cut off points for female engineering students to qualify to their majors in engineering which allowed them to major in engineering sub disciplines of their choice. The female engineering students had experiences of strong peer support from the study groups they belonged to, in addition to intrinsic motivation which was critical to remaining positive and persistent in engineering courses. The female engineering students suggested that availing female lecturers to teach in the various sub disciplines of engineering and holding seminars for female engineering students would largely motivate some female engineering students and possibly attract more females into engineering programmes. The implication of the findings is that the decisions to design interventions to support female engineering students should use the ecological prism and engage the female engineering students themselves because realities of their experiences are unique to them. The environment in which the female students live has a lot of influence in their choice to study engineering, their persistence and can provide the required support that female engineering students require to be attracted and retained in engineering. Further research in the area can be conducted to examine factors that prevent many female students from majoring in engineering.
University of Zambia