Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Andrew Alexson


Institutions have implemented recruitment and retention initiatives in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs; however, gender disparity of women in engineering and computer science programs persists. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of female graduates from engineering and computer science programs. The conceptual framework was the theory of grit to explore how female students sustained their passion and perseverance through obstacles and adverse situations. Data were gathered through semistructured interviews with 17 female participants who graduated from engineering and computer science programs in the United States. Data were analyzed through a priori coding and thematic analysis. Six themes were identified: (a) resilience and perseverance through challenges, (b) finding passion to focus drive and determination, (c) build a support system, (d) confidence and belief in abilities, (e) advocate for self and other women, and (f) hard work is necessary for success. Findings may be used to develop equitable practices for all students, to reduce the presence of bias and stereotypes, and to promote targeted implementation of mentorship opportunities for female students in STEM programs.