Negating Professional Identity Formation in First-year Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Women

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


Although women participation could reduce workforce shortages and enhance gender diversity, they are underrepresented in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professions. The purpose is to examine experiences that negate professional identity formation in first-year AEC women. Adopting purposive sampling, 40 first-year AEC women from five institutions completed Qualtrics-based surveys with open-ended questions about their salient experiences. Data was analyzed using the NVivo Qualitative Analysis software and Microsoft Excel for coding, categorization. Results show that 95% of research participants (RPs) encountered negative experiences categorized as: Academic (73%); Psychological (53%); Diversity (25%); Physical (25%); Financial (20%); and Social (18%) Discomforts. While non-AEC courses were enlightening, preference was for early AEC gateway courses for early exposure, sustained interest, and timely affirmation of chosen career. Most Architecture RPs (88%) complained about stresses from heavy workloads, financial challenges, lack of sleep, lack of time, tiredness, and missing social life. The lack of gender and racial diversity resulted in a sense of isolation and not being respected. Although tolerable levels of discomfort sustained professional identity formation, overwhelming discomforts negated professional identity formation and caused RPs to question their AEC career choices. While one RP considered exiting from her AEC program, most implemented coping strategies to include self-care, receiving therapy, time management, and adopting a survival mentality. Early and targeted interventions such as increasing AEC gateway courses and female supporting networks will sustain professional identity formation. Insights have implications towards changes that can strengthen the preparation and retention of the next generation of AEC women.

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