Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Carmen McCallum, PhD

Committee Member

Rema Reynolds, PhD

Committee Member

David Anderson, EdD

Committee Member

Regina George, PhD


This body of research examined the Arab American culture and its impact on women who studied the male-dominated major of engineering. Through a qualitative approach, women born and raised in an Arab American home unpacked their experiences since childhood that made them who they are today. The 10 female Arab American participants shared how they made it through and successfully completed their major in engineering. This study focused on engineering, since there has been little to no growth in women who major in this male-dominated subject. This research examined how the participants’ parents, extended family, friends, community, and both K-12 and higher education affected their ability to progress through to degree completion in engineering. The participants discussed where they found support and where the pitfalls laid. Participants noted the support of the immediate family as a buttress against perceived community and extended family disapproval or misunderstanding. Participants also specifically pointed to college tutoring services as a major area of support. Social support seemed easier for many participants to find in high school than in college. Participants who wear the hijab noted a prevailing sense of otherness throughout their education. This study concludes with recommendations for parents and higher education on how to develop and encourage a successful woman in engineering. Specifically, the role of the immediate family and the role of college-level supporting infrastructure in the form of tutoring services and student clubs must be considered as factors which could have a strong impact on increasing the number of Arab American women in STEM in the future. The interaction of the hijab and the sense of social dislocation that some students experienced is also an area for further research.