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LAURA ETTINGER

Clarkson University
Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: Laura Ettinger

    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 8, 2022 | 10:20 p.m.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to watch our video, "Trailblazing Women Engineers Inspire the Next Generation"!

    We have produced a short documentary (19:18 minutes; for all audiences) and three short educational videos (3-5 minutes each; aimed at middle school and early high school students) featuring six trailblazing women engineers. All are free and available for you to use. We also have a discussion guide for teachers, Robotics club advisors, Scout leaders, etc. The documentary and educational videos are part of Laura Ettinger’s larger research project, based on her interviews with 47 trailblazing women engineers.

    We'd love to hear any of your feedback, including your responses to the questions below. 

    1. Could you imagine using the documentary and/or educational videos in your classroom, club, or other setting? If so, how might you use them?

    2. What barriers have you seen girls or women in engineering encounter? 

    3. To what extent can hearing or reading stories help to create change?

     

     

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    Jordan LeClair

    K-12 Teacher
    May 10, 2022 | 03:41 p.m.

    Fantastic! I'm sharing these resources with my fellow teachers. 

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 10, 2022 | 03:46 p.m.

    Thank you so much, Jordan! If they end up using the videos and discussion guide, I'd love to hear how that goes!

    Laura

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    Lisa Ospitale

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 9, 2022 | 09:05 p.m.

    Laura, what a great project! I would love to see the documentary in full. Is it posted somewhere that you can share?

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 9, 2022 | 09:52 p.m.

    Thank you so much, Lisa! The full documentary, Trailblazers: The Untold Stories of Six Women Engineers, can be found here. It's free and available for anyone to watch. This website also provides links to three educational videos and other resources. I'd be happy to answer other questions you have or to talk further about the documentary.

    Laura

  • Icon for: Scott Pattison

    Scott Pattison

    Facilitator
    Research Scientist
    May 10, 2022 | 03:48 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work, Laura. I really enjoyed watching the video. A lot of my current research focuses on engaging families with preschool-age children in engineering and learning from them about the ways they use engineering in their everyday lives. Did you hear from the engineers you talked to about the influence of families and early learning experiences? Do you have reflections for parents and early childhood educators based on the work you've done in this area? Thanks!

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 10, 2022 | 04:25 p.m.

    Thank you very much, Scott! Those are great questions. I would say that most of my interview participants did not focus on their early learning experiences and that there was quite a bit of variety in their experiences growing up. All graduated college in the 1970s, but they came from very different backgrounds (socio-economic, racial, geographic, etc.).

    Here are some things that interview participants who did talk about early childhood commented upon:

    • Having both typically male and female toys.
    • Being very active outside (for example, in one case, helping her family around the farm).
    • Realizing from a very young age that her brain seemed to work differently from everyone else's.
    • Learning from a mechanically-oriented father about tools and fixing things. 
    • Not letting rough and tumble play and scraped knees stop her from playing with the boys.

    Again though, a lot of the interview participants did not talk much about their early childhood experiences. Thanks for your questions!

  • Icon for: Scott Pattison

    Scott Pattison

    Facilitator
    Research Scientist
    May 12, 2022 | 06:26 p.m.

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing more about your project, Laura. In our research we have also seen an extremely diverse range of experiences or factors that might spark or support ongoing interest in engineering or other aspects of STEM. Clearly there is no one pathway. Thanks again for sharing!

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 12, 2022 | 06:54 p.m.

    Thank you, Scott. I look forward to following your research on this subject. 

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    Jen Davinack

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2022 | 07:50 a.m.

    Your documentary and videos are so incredible!! Thank you so much for putting together this video and sharing your work!

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 11, 2022 | 07:57 a.m.

    Jen, thank you very much for your kind words! 

  • Icon for: Nidaa Makki

    Nidaa Makki

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 11, 2022 | 08:56 a.m.

    Hello Laura,

    Thank you for sharing your work! It's wonderful that you were able to capture the experiences of these trailblazing women engineers and sharing those stories with aspiring engineers! I appreciated that resources were created to use the videos with middle and high school students. I am curious to learn more about how students at various levels have responded to hearing the stories of these women engineers. Are there specific outcomes for students that this project is aiming to achieve? and how have you measured the impact of this project? 

     

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 11, 2022 | 12:10 p.m.

    Nidaa, thank you so much for this feedback and for your thoughtful questions.

    As for your first question, we hope that students will 1) come away from the videos with some tools to develop resilience and understand potential obstacles they may face during their education and careers, and 2) see the six trailblazing women engineers as role models and mentors, when they may not have encountered any or many women in engineering before. We worked hard not to send the message to girls that it's their fault if they feel discouraged; we wanted to acknowledge the structural challenges while also empowering girls (and young people regardless of gender identification). 

    As for your second question, I would like to do more to measure the impact of the project and would welcome your suggestions about this. We have some information about impact, suggesting that the educational videos and documentary have gotten students talking and thinking about gender and STEM. 

    For example, following a December 2020 virtual event, co-sponsored by Clarkson University and the New York State Master Teacher Program, in which we launched the educational videos and documentary, the trailblazing women engineers made virtual visits to some classrooms and school districts of teachers in attendance at the event. The engineers and, in some cases, teachers reported back about impact. In one case, a group of high school students was particularly interested in the comments in the documentary about wage discrimination. The students noted that their mothers had told them that wage discrimination still exists. They also said, following the video/documentary viewings, that they didn't feel that geeky students or girls doing science get discriminated against in high school, but do in middle school. 

  • Icon for: Nidaa Makki

    Nidaa Makki

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 15, 2022 | 09:52 p.m.

    Thank you for the detailed response! I agree that it's important that we communicate to young women who are interested in engineering that challenges that they may face are due to structural challenges that can be changed, and we should be working towards addressing them. 

    You also raised a good point about the changing environment in high schools (being more open to girls doing science) from when the participants in the videos went through their school years. And while there are many efforts nationally to increase women participation in undergraduate engineering programs, the representation continues to decrease as you move higher on the education ladder. This is the same issue for tenure track faculty in engineering, where representation decreases as we go from assistant to associate to full professors. 

    In terms of measuring impact, there are some existing measures that may get at some of the outcomes you are interested in (engineering self-efficacy, engineering identity, draw an engineer), but you can also have some survey questions targeting students' perceptions of obstacles facing women in engineering. 

     

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 15, 2022 | 10:01 p.m.

    Nidaa, thank you for all of this! 

    You raised good points about representation decreasing as you move higher on the education ladder and in the academic ranks. 

    Thanks for your helpful suggestions about measuring impact. Much appreciated!

  • Icon for: Peggy Layne

    Peggy Layne

    May 11, 2022 | 11:03 a.m.

     It's so exciting to see the great things coming out of this project!

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 11, 2022 | 12:12 p.m.

    Thank you very much, Peggy!

  • Icon for: Lizzy Cowan

    Lizzy Cowan

    Researcher
    May 11, 2022 | 02:46 p.m.

    Such an important project! Thank you for linking the documentary. I watched that as well. Our project is focused on boosting spatial visualization skills. Spatial skills have been linked to higher graduation rates and GPAs in STEM. Spatial visualization skills are learnable through 3D video games, legos/building games, and even team sports. All areas where girls are less encouraged to participate in when they are young. We would like to help "level the playing field" by training these skills.

    I look forward to the book release!

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 11, 2022 | 03:07 p.m.

    Thank you so much, Lizzy! I just went to watch your video and found it to be really well-done - and such important work. I commented on it there. 

  • Icon for: Seema Rivera

    Seema Rivera

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2022 | 08:21 a.m.

    Awesome video, Laura! This is such important work, and I love how you have an engaging video and discussion guide that is ready to use for teachers.  Making this work accessible broadens the impact, thank you for putting it out there for educators to use.  Thank you for focusing on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM; your work continues to inspire me! 

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 12, 2022 | 08:27 a.m.

    Thank you very much, Seema!

  • Icon for: Claire Duggan

    Claire Duggan

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 12, 2022 | 09:01 a.m.

    Great project.  I look forward to sharing your videos with our teacher network.  

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 12, 2022 | 09:15 a.m.

    Thank you so much, Claire. If people in your teacher network use the videos and want to provide feedback, or if they have any questions, feel free to have them reach out to me. 

  • Icon for: Amy Wilson-Lopez

    Amy Wilson-Lopez

    Facilitator
    Associate Professor
    May 12, 2022 | 11:22 a.m.

    Thank you for this video! What I loved about this project was the mechanisms for dissemination. Instead of just writing the book (which you are doing and which is great), you produced a documentary in which we can see and hear women in their own words, and you also produced and shared educational videos and discussion guides. Your mechanisms for dissemination are exemplary, and I was happy to hear about how different audiences have received them. So my question is...while I think it's important for individuals to develop resilience and strength to help them navigate hostile systems, I also think it's important to change the systems themselves so they are not hostile. Do you think your project (with women from the 70s) has implications for changing our current system? And if so, what are those implications? Thanks again for sharing this project!

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 12, 2022 | 03:31 p.m.

    Thank you so much for your comments and your excellent questions, Amy! It's very important to me to reach a broad audience with my work. I think the women I interviewed are amazing, and I want everyone to hear their voices and messages! 

    I agree with you completely about the importance of changing hostile systems themselves. My answer above to Nidaa Makki was about the outcomes for younger students who watch the three educational videos. My hope there is that the educational videos will give the students strategies and role models/mentors - and importantly, help them to feel less alone.

    The short documentary, which is aimed at older high school students and adults, is another story. My hope is that people who watch the documentary will have a better understanding than they might otherwise have about what needs to change to encourage women to go into and persist in engineering careers. I hope that by listening to the engineers' stories, higher education administrators, industry and government leaders, and others will think more about what they can do to change the culture of engineering, along with the policies and practices at their institutions, so the cultures and institutions are more inclusive and welcoming. I also hope that individuals who watch the documentary will think more about their own biases. And from the feedback I've received, many women - in a variety of careers (not just engineering or STEM) and of a variety of ages - who've watched the documentary have related to it. So, in that way, the documentary like the educational videos has the potential (I hope) to make viewers feel less alone. 

    I think when people (of any age) feel less alone - when they realize they're not the only ones experiencing lack of confidence or micro-discrimination, for example - they're more likely to say that the hostile systems are hostile and unacceptable.

    I'd welcome your take on all of this! I love thinking about the power of stories to create change. Thanks again for starting this conversation. 

     
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    Amy Wilson-Lopez
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    Karen Royer

    Graduate Student
    May 13, 2022 | 11:51 a.m.

    Laura, your work is inspirational. As a student in the eighties I had a physics professor suggest that my childlike voice would not get me favored treatment. At the time, it went entirely over my head how awful that was to say to a 19 year old engineering student. I admired that professor and spent years trying to figure out what part of how I spoke caused him to say that. Within a year, I had switched majors despite enjoying the math and programming classes. This was only one barrier that I faced in my early academic years. 

    I imagine asking the women in your study about their lives outside business. I want to know why they persisted. Our project reaches an audience of women who are not necessarily in business currently, however, I imagine your work could inspire conversation about networking and how craft communities use networking for support and encouragement. 

    Best of luck in your efforts.

    I wonder what inspired you to take on this project. 

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 13, 2022 | 10:46 p.m.

    Karen, thank you so much for your comments and for sharing some of your story. I'm sorry that your physics professor said that awful thing to you and that you faced many other barriers as well.

    My teaching at Clarkson University inspired me to take on this project. Clarkson is a private technological university where a large percentage of students major in engineering. As a historian of women, gender, science, and medicine, I wanted to understand more about the context of the things my women colleagues and students in engineering were experiencing.

    That led me to interview Clarkson women engineering alumnae who had graduated from college in the 1970s. I put those interviews on this website

    Then, I decided that I wanted to tell a larger story. That led me to apply for a NSF grant to interview women engineers from throughout the US who graduated from college in the 1970s.

    I feel so lucky to have met so many incredible women who have trusted me with their stories. Though I am not an engineer or in any STEM field, I find that I often connect to the engineers' stories. These women inspire me. 

  • May 13, 2022 | 01:59 p.m.

    This project really spoke to me personally, as I have a 15 year old daughter who is very interested in pursuing an engineering career, and I'm concerned that she'll get these discouraging messages as she heads into college and the work world. Thanks so much for capturing these women's stories and their uplifting comments on life as engineers as well as the challenging parts :)

     
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    Laura Ettinger
  • Icon for: Laura Ettinger

    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 13, 2022 | 10:51 p.m.

    Katherine, thank you very much for these comments. I'm so glad that this project speaks to you. My hope is that the educational videos and documentary could be helpful to your daughter and other girls her age. If your daughter ends up watching the documentary or educational videos, I'd be interested to hear her reactions to them!

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    Jane Raymond-Wood

    May 15, 2022 | 09:37 p.m.

    Progress seems really slow as it's been 50 years since these ground breakers entered the workforce.  But progress has been made, support networks exist that weren't possible back then, and there are more female engineers and scientists at each company than ever before.  We need to keep plugging away at it, and encouraging other women in these fields. 

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 15, 2022 | 09:57 p.m.

    Thank you so much for these comments, Jane! I agree with you. A short article I published in October, "Trailblazing women who broke into engineering in the 1970s reflect on what's changed - and what hasn't," gets at some of this.

    Here's a question for anyone reading this thread: what do you think will have the most impact in encouraging girls and women to go into and stay in engineering? 

  • Icon for: Francheska Figueroa

    Francheska Figueroa

    Researcher
    May 16, 2022 | 01:06 p.m.

    Thank you so much for sharing this project! I most certainly will take the time to watch the documentary as watching just the short clip that you shared made me emotional. Too often we dismiss sexism in the talks we have about inclusion and equity; so I applaud you bringing this to the forefront! Bravo!

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 16, 2022 | 01:32 p.m.

    Francheska, thank you very much! 

  • May 16, 2022 | 06:58 p.m.

    Great to see this. I shared it with my colleague: one of two women in her Mechanical and Aerospace engineering department!

     
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    Laura Ettinger
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    Laura Ettinger

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor of History
    May 17, 2022 | 08:56 a.m.

    Thank you so much, Jennifer! And thanks for sharing it with your colleague. If you or your colleague end up using my documentary and/or educational videos in any way, I'd welcome your feedback!

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