Date of Award

7-2016

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation

Department

Doctoral Studies

Committee Chair

Tim Brady, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

David Esser, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Haydee Cuevas, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Peggy Chabrian, Ed.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation was to determine the nature and extent of differences between generational cohorts regarding the effect of family factors on retention of women in engineering, with an emphasis on women in the aerospace industry. While 6% of the aerospace workforce is made up of aeronautical engineers, an additional 11.2% of the aerospace workforce is drawn from other engineering disciplines. Therefore, the analysis included all engineering sub-disciplines. In order to include women who had left the workforce, women in all industries were used as a proxy for women in aerospace.

Exits to other fields were modeled separately from exits out of the workforce. The source of data was the National Survey of College Graduates. Women engineers were divided into the Baby Boom cohort (born 1945-1964), the Generation X cohort (born 1965-1980), and the Millennial cohort (born 1981-1997). A time-lag design was used to compare generational cohorts when they were the same age.

The results of this study showed that generational cohort did not affect retention of women in engineering. However, generational cohort affected family formation decisions, with Millennial women marrying and having children later than their counterparts in the Generation X and Baby Boom cohorts. Generational cohort also affected the influence of motherhood on retention in the workforce, with Generation X and Millennial mothers more likely to stay in the workforce than their counterparts in the Baby Boom cohort. There was no significant difference between Generation X and Millennial women in the proportion of mothers who stayed in the workforce.

Generational cohort influenced the reasons women left the workforce. Women in the Millennial cohort were more likely to cite not needing or wanting to work, while women in the Generation X cohort were more likely to cite family responsibilities. Among mothers in the Millennial cohort who were out of the workforce, the proportion who cited not needing or wanting to work as a reason for being out of the workforce was much larger than the proportion citing family responsibilities. Among mothers in the Generation X cohort who were out of the workforce, the relationship was reversed, with a larger proportion of women citing family factors than not needing or wanting to work.

Generational cohort also affected the influence of motherhood on leaving engineering for another professional field, with Generation X and Millennial mothers more likely to stay in engineering than their counterparts in the Baby Boom cohort. Women in the Baby Boom cohort were more likely than women in the Generation X cohort to cite family factors as the most important reason they left engineering for another professional field. There was no significant difference between women in the Generation X cohort and women in the Millennial cohort regarding the most important reason they left engineering for another field.

These results should help aerospace leaders understand the role of family factors in the workforce decisions of Millennial women engineers, and enhance the aerospace industry’s ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest for tomorrow’s aerospace workforce.

Share

COinS