The inequality of LGBTQ students in U.S. Engineering education: Report on a study of eight engineering programs

Erin A. Cech, Tom J. Waidzunas, Stephanie Farrell

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Research over the last three decades has provided extensive documentation of processes that reproduce inequalities for women and racial-ethnic minorities in engineering education. In contrast, scholars are only beginning to understand the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals in engineering. Cumulatively, the limited research that does exist suggests that LGBTQ-identifying individuals encounter stereotypes and bias and report negative experiences that fit within a spectrum of discrimination. However, due to data limitations, research has not yet been able to document LGBTQ inequality relative to the experiences of non-LGBTQ students at the same institution. In this paper, we utilize new survey data on over 1700 students (both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ) from eight engineering colleges across the U.S. to paint the landscape of inequalities for LGBTQ students. Specifically, we ask, (1) do LGBTQ students experience greater marginalization than their classmates and (2) is their engineering work more likely to be devalued? (3) Do LGBTQ students experience greater personal consequences than their peers in terms of stress, insomnia, and unhappiness? (4) Do these LGBTQ inequalities vary by school? We find that LGBTQ students face greater marginalization, devaluation and personal consequences relative to their peers. There is little variation in the negative climate for LGBTQ students across the eight schools we study, suggesting that LGBTQ inequality is part of the professional culture of engineering that pervades most engineering programs. Broadly speaking, these initial results highlight crucial considerations regarding the inclusion and respect of talented engineering students and the importance of addressing patterns of disadvantage to promote the inclusion of all students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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