An analysis of the link between the three pillars of sustainable development themes and women’s attraction to engineering as a career choice

  • Ibifuro Ken-Giami

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis advances the understanding of the link between the concepts of Sustainable Development (SD) and women’s choice and attraction to engineering. Such understanding is particularly important in the present world where a combination of emerging SD challenges, the shortage of engineers and underrepresentation of women remain a challenge to the profession. As a way of addressing these engineering problems, previous research identified the importance of broad themes associated with such SD challenges of the profession in influencing women’s choice of engineering. However, knowledge on the degree of importance of more detailed themes within the social, environmental and economic SD pillars and how these themes influence such career decisions, remains unknown. Moreover, these SD challenges not only require skilled engineers but also those who have the interests to address them. Thus, identifying more heterogeneous engineering associated SD themes that can influence women’s choice of engineering is likely to attract more women who are interested in solving the numerous SD challenges. Consequently, the aim of this research is to develop a model that explains the link between SD themes and women’s career choice and attraction to engineering.
A mixed-methods research (MMR) design comprising the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP), Sensitivity analysis and Grounded Theory (GT) was adopted to address this aim, which reflects the primary research question. Hence, a unique gamified/AHP structurally designed quantitative survey and qualitative GT semi-structured interviews were utilized to gather and analyse data from a sample of 414 respondents and 15 participants respectively in the UK and Nigeria to contribute rich insights from both developed and developing nations ‘perspectives. The quantitative results revealed the relative importance of specific SD-themed factors that influence women’s choice of engineering. While this result is vital, knowledge about how this decision is reached is of utmost importance to inform strategies for recruiting and attracting women to engineering. For this reason, the qualitative study was conducted and the results revealed comprehensive insights indicating that the process of how SD themes influence women’s engineering career choice involves a dynamic interaction of four primary interrelated factors- Exposure, Awareness, Interest and Direct involvement (EAID). The study outcome is a novel EAID process indicating that women’s interest and direct involvement in engineering could be influenced through two main routes—either by creating exposure or by awareness of engineering roles that cause or address sustainability challenges. The combined results of this MMR provided useful insights that informed the development of the three- dimensional Gender diversity and Sustainability in Engineering (GDSE) model, showing the link between SD themes, women’s choice and attraction to engineering.
Significantly, these findings offered some practical implications for engineering education stakeholders including HEIs and engineering organisations. These include the potential of utilizing the GDSE model to enhance their recruitment strategies by focusing on the most salient areas that influence women’s career choice. This could widen the options and pathways of making the profession attractive to women and other underrepresented groups.
Date of Award20 Jul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorSarinova Simandjuntak (Supervisor), Linda Yang (Supervisor) & Ann Coats (Supervisor)

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