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Community engagement efforts have become an important avenue for raising public interest and know-how related to engineering. These efforts draw the young and the diverse into seeing engineering as a worthwhile profession. One such effort at the national level in the U.S. is the “National Engineers Week”. This is a week-long celebration held every February that consists of numerous events and activities organized for the general public with a focus towards students, women, and under-represented groups. In this paper, we examined this effort through the lens of social media and analyzed Twitter data collected for two hashtags used during the National Engineers Week 2017: “#eweek2017” and “#engineersweek”. Our dataset consisted of 6,583 original tweets and 10,885 retweets. To study the impact of the outreach we used three analytical approaches: descriptive analysis, content analysis, and network analysis. We found that the Twitter campaign participation was dominated by engineering companies and individual users followed by a limited participation of educational institutions, professional engineering associations, and non-profits. As opposed to other popular hashtag campaigns, not a single news media organization was identified as a participating user signaling a lower new media-driven propagation of the campaign among the public. From a content perspective, the tweets can be categorized as event promotion, showcasing employees of engineering companies, or encouraging and inspiring public (especially women and children) towards engineering. With the growing popularity of social media, community engagement efforts need to strategically leverage hashtags and other media elements for a broader impact.more » « less
We present a study that examines how a social media activism campaign aimed at improving gender diversity within engineering gained and maintained momentum in its early period. We examined over 50,000 Tweets posted over the first ~75 days of the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign and found that diverse participation – of types of users – increased activity at crucial moments. We categorize these triggers into four types: 1) Event-Driven: Alignment of the campaign with offline events related to the issue (Diversity SFO, Disrupt, etc.); 2) Media-Driven: News coverage of the events in the media (TechCrunch, CNN, BBC, etc.); 3) Industry-Driven: Web participation in the campaign by large organizations (Microsoft, Tesla, GE, Cisco, etc.); and 4) Personality-Driven: Alignment of the events with popular and/or known personalities (e.g. Isis Anchalee; Michelle Sun; Ada Lovelace.) This study illustrates how one mechanism – triggering – supports connective action in social media campaign.more » « less
Each year, significant investment of time and resources is made to improve diversity within engineering across a range of federal and state agencies, private/not-for-profit organizations, and foundations. In spite of decades of investments, efforts have not yielded desired returns - participation by minorities continues to lag at a time when STEM workforce requirements are increasing. In recent years a new stream of data has emerged - online social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram - that act as a key sensor of social behavior and attitudes of the public. Almost 87% of the American population now participates in some form of social media activity. Consequently, social networking sites have become powerful indicators of social action and social media data has shown significant promise for studying many issues including public health communication, political campaign, humanitarian crisis, and, activism. We argue that social media data can likewise be leveraged to better understand and improve engineering diversity. As a case study to illustrate the viability of the approach, we present findings from a campaign, #ILookLikeAnEngineer (using Twitter data – 19,354 original tweets and 29,529 retweets), aimed at increasing gender diversity in the engineering workplace. The campaign provided a continuous momentum to the overall effort to increase diversity and novel ways of connecting with relevant audience. Our analysis demonstrates that diversity initiatives related to STEM attract voices from various entities including individuals, large corporations, media outlets, and community interest groups.more » « less
The feminist theory of intersectionality asserts that experiences of social categories, such as gender, vary based on context and demographic factors and can be best understood by capturing and analyzing participants’ self-expressions. Social media provide a novel setting to study this phenomenon. We examined participants’ self-expressions on a campaign for increasing engineering diversity (#ILookLikeanEngineer) and found that, consistent with an intersectionality perspective, in addition to their identity as an engineer, participants opted to: a) expand upon and provide specifics about their engineering identity; b) expressed their affiliation with an institution or company; c) expressed personal aspects of their identity such as family or hobbies; d) expressed support for someone they knew who was an engineer; e) expressed solidarity with other social causes related to diversity; and f) expressed enthusiasm for or mentioned the campaign humorously. This study highlights the inherent complexity of identify that arises when people self-express themselves.more » « less