Nilanjana Dasgupta Completes Long-Term Study on Peer Mentors for College Women in Engineering

A new study by Nilanjana Dasgupta, social psychologist, and her Ph.D. student Tara C. Dennehy, has concluded that first-year college women in engineering majors felt greater confidence, motivation and sense of belonging by having female peer mentors.

Groups of students were offered an advanced male or female mentor or no mentor at all, the control group. 100 percent of women students with female peer mentors completed their first year of college without dropping out. There was an 18 percent dropout rate for students with male mentors and 11 percent for women with no mentors. 

As the authors point out, women make up more than 50 percent of university students but hold only between 13 and 33 percent of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, computer and physical sciences. Engineering is notable, they add, “for having one of the lowest proportions of women among all fields in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).” ("Female Peer Mentors", par. 3)

Students' aspirations to pursue engineering careers were also supported by the guidance of a female peer mentor. Mentors provided emotional stabilization and encouragement, which helped students succeed during a time of great change and development. Dasgupta and Dennehy's research of college women in engineering continues by prolonging each student/mentor relationship for additional years.

In other studies conducted by Dasgupta, she examines the implicit bias that individuals can exhibit towards favorable social groups. Subtle stereotypical cues can steer the reactions of people in everyday situations. We may not be aware that certain situational forces can produce prejudicial behavior without our intention to do so. Dasgupta looks at how implicit bias effects female college students by initiating interventions, situational experiments, and classroom observations.

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In the Media: The Atlantic, Inside Higher Ed, ScienMag,

Lathrop, J. (2017, May 22). Female Peer Mentors Help Retain College Women in Engineering