Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Beth Goldstein


Women still rarely choose to seek employment in advanced manufacturing. Lack of familiarity with manufacturing jobs and education programs, lack of role models, and too few experiential opportunities contribute to women not choosing manufacturing jobs as well as other jobs traditionally held by men (Reha, Lufkin, & Harrison, 2009; St. Rose & Hill, 2013; Starobin & Laanan, 2008). Nontraditional jobs for women often provide higher wages and more opportunity for advancement than traditional jobs for women. This study is a qualitative thematic narrative analysis of factors that influenced women who chose an advanced manufacturing program at a community college to enter employment in a male-dominated career sector.

Intersectionality and agency were the overarching concepts used to examine how working-class women navigated the unfamiliar spaces of higher education and manufacturing. Data were collected through interviews that spanned across several years as the women in the study advanced through the community college and into the manufacturing workplace. The primary research questions included: 1) What motivated the women to begin the program and what were their doubts? 2) How did the women’s experiences in the community college and participation in an advanced manufacturing program influence their education and career choices? And, 3) What might be learned through their stories, particularly their perspectives related to identity and agency?

Women reported their top reason for initially pursuing education and employment in manufacturing was the potential income and employee benefits; however, as the women progressed, they reported additional benefits that included increased confidence at work and at home. The women cited earning a college credential as the most transformative aspect of their journey and attributed unexpected personal growth and self-discovery to their college experience. Additional findings pertained to the value of the college support program, the challenges of exercising agency in a patriarchal environment, and the advantages of women’s ways of working for both the employee and the employer.

The results of this study have financial implications for women, programmatic implications for colleges, workforce development implications for communities, and employee recruitment and retention implications for manufacturers.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)