VI. Camp Survey Results

A. Introduction

Two surveys were conducted in 1993 and 1996 among Discover Engineering graduates. The results confirm that the initiative has been effective - 83% of the 1996 camp participants found the camp experience to be very beneficial while 76% said that it had made a big difference to their awareness of what engineering was all about [14]. As hoped, a number of students attending the camp have decided to pursue engineering as a career. Follow-up surveys from previous camp sessions (1991-1993) found that approximately 60% of the young women who attended the Discover Engineering camp went on to pursue engineering at university and cited the camp as a key factor in their decision.

In order to assess whether the camp was effective as an informative and fun educational tool, participants in each session were asked to complete a survey once the week-long camp experience was completed. Questions 1-7 of the survey were aimed at gathering information on the general influences and attitudes of the students attending the camp. Questions 8-15 dealt with gathering information strictly about the 'Discover Engineering' camp experience. To evaluate whether the camp had any effect on the long term career decisions of the participants, telephone surveys were conducted with participants who had attended the camp several years previously. This follow up survey asked what the women were doing now and what influence the camp had on their career direction.

B. Camp Survey Findings

One hundred and nine women who attended the 1996 summer camp filled out the camp survey. Approximately equal numbers of women from each of the four sessions are represented in these results. Not all respondents answered every question in the survey so percentages reported on each item are based only on the respondents who answered. Ninety-nine percent (99%) of the camp participants indicated that they were planning on attending university, however, only 44% indicated that they would major in engineering. Fifteen percent (15%) checked Science, 3% checked Math, none (0%) checked business and 4% checked other. Notably, 26% chose the Undecided option. Some respondents (9%) selected more than one option but generally Engineering was included in that mix of items. These data seem to suggest that most of the women who attended the camp had already decided to pursue an undergraduate degree although they were not necessarily interested in engineering. The camp attendees were then asked what influenced them on their school decisions. A number of options were given and respondents were asked to check all that applied. The results are summarized in Table I. Family members and teachers appear to have the greatest impact on decisions regarding school although half were influenced by factors other than family and friends.

The Impact of Various Influences on Decisions Regarding School
Outside Programs29%
Guidance Counselors 18%
School Projects12%

The same question was posed but this time directed at their decisions about careers. The results are summarized in Table II. Approximately one third of the respondents selected family (37%), teachers (32%) and/or other influences (32%) as having had an impact on their career decision. Interestingly, family and teachers had a greater influence on school decisions than on career decisions while the "other" category was chosen by more when it came to career decisions.

The Impact of Various Influences on Decisions Regarding Career
Other 32%
Outside Programs28%
Guidance Counselors 16%

To determine if someone important had ever made a comment about the ability of girls to perform well in math or science, 8 statements were listed and the participants were asked to check all that applied. The percentages of those that checked one or more of these statements are listed in Table III. Almost 20% of the respondents did not check any of the items listed. Thus, it is difficult to know if they skipped the question entirely or if they never had any of these experiences. For purposes of data presentation, only the 88 respondents that checked at least one option have been included in Table III. Of those that checked at least one of the 8 options, the family stereotypical concern that girls should find a partner was checked by 50% of the respondents. Less than 20% checked any of the other options.

Percent of Camp Attendees that Had Been Exposed to the Following Comments about Girls' Abilities
Girls should find a boyfriend, husband 50%
Math and Science are too difficult for girls 19%
Girls are not logical enough 18%
Girls cannot combine family and science career 16%
Social studies and business are for girls to study 15%
Computers are for men to understand 14%
Girls do not have to study math and science 9%
Math and science are not important for girls 6%

When asked what reasons (Table IV) discouraged them from pursuing science or using a computer, lack of assistance was chosen by about 1/2 of the respondents while performing poorly was noted by 19% of the respondents. When asked about experiences, 15% indicated they had apprehension about choosing engineering because it is a male-dominated field. Twenty percent experienced frustration in working with a computer or machinery. Twenty-nine percent reported experiencing doubts about conducting experiments or working with machinery. However, half (50%) reported experiencing nervousness in test taking.

When respondents were asked how they overcame obstacles that they had checked in the previous question, self-determination was chosen by 59% of the respondents. Working smarter, harder, and longer was checked by 50%. Forty-seven percent circled "encouragement from someone close to you". Teacher's encouragement (31%), seeking extra help or tutoring (24%) and supportive groups or workshops (13%) were less frequently chosen. Although family and teachers were seen as providing impact on school and career decisions, these respondents appeared to rely on themselves more than others in overcoming obstacles.

Percentage of Camp Attendees Who Cited the Following Reasons as Discouraging Them from Pursuing Science or Using a Computer
assistance is not available when you need it 50%
you did poorly on a math or science exam 19%
you are not given an opportunity to work on a computer 18%
teachers are unable to answer your questions 16%
you do not like laboratories 15%

In the second half of the survey, participants were asked to rate the summer camp experience. Eighty-four percent rated it as "very beneficial" and 16% as "moderately beneficial". In terms of becoming more aware of engineering, 76% said it made "a big difference", 23% said "some difference". The participants were then asked to rate the components of the camp as either "not interesting", "somewhat interesting", or "very interesting". The results are summarized in Table V. Of the camp components, the 2 tours (to the MacMillan Centre and Skydome) were rated the lowest in terms of interest. The Egg Drop (84%) and the Holography (82%) components generated the highest level of interest. This seemed to indicate that the hands-on sessions were the most popular.

Level of Interest (%) in Camp Components
ComponentNoneSomeA Lot
Introduction to Engineering 9%48% 43%
Tower Building1% 23%76%
Tour of MacMillan Bloorview Centre 17%51% 32%
AutoCAD9% 49%42%
Electronics3% 25%72%
Pneumatics5% 37%58%
Holography1% 17%82%
Civil Engineering and Skydome Tour 15%34% 51%
Chemistry and Biology 5%37% 58%
Egg Drop3% 13%84%
Women Engineers' panel Discussion 1%26% 73%
WAMMO6% 35%59%

The camp provided opportunities for participants to be with women engineering students and engineers. The women were asked if meeting women engineering students changed their ideas about women in engineering. Thirty-nine percent checked "somewhat" and another 39% checked "significantly". However, without a reference point for the respondents' ideas about women in engineering, it is difficult to interpret these findings (i.e., was the change in ideas positive or negative?). Similarly, when asked if the opportunity to meet with women professional engineers changed their ideas, 67% said "yes" but we don't know how their ideas changed.

Graphical representation of some of the survey results can be found here.

C. Post Camp Telephone Survey Findings

Two follow-up surveys were conducted. One in the fall of 1993 surveyed students that had participated in either the 1991 or 1992 summer camp. The second was conducted in the winter of 1996 and surveyed participants of the 1993 summer camp. Seventy-four participants from the 1991-1992 summer camps were interviewed by phone. Sixty-six percent were currently in university at that time, 57% of these were enrolled in engineering programs. An additional 35% were enrolled in other science based programs. Seventy-five percent said that the summer camp experience greatly influenced their decision on program in which to enroll.

From the 1993 summer camp 51 women were interviewed by phone. It was found that 94% of them were currently enrolled in university, two of them at Ryerson. Of those attending university, 45% were enrolled in engineering programs and over two thirds cited the 'Discover Engineering' experience as a great or moderate influence on their choice of field of study.

Information collected from both of the surveys suggests that the camp experience helped students to decide whether or not to study engineering.

D. 1999 Update

A new follow-up survey is currently being conducted. Plans are to have all telephone interviews with past participants concluded by the end of August, 1999. The results and their analysis will be presented in a report which will be posted on-line at the Women in Engineering at Ryerson website.