Gender Disparity in Engineering Departments

Gender and Engineering, Female Engineers, Female Engineering Majors

Ivy Coach salutes Dartmouth College for graduating so many female engineers — in defiance of a national trend.

Donald Trump Jr. emailed with Wikileaks. That’s breaking news. The fact that there is gender disparity in engineering departments at universities across America? …Not exactly breaking news. Around 19% of undergraduates who earn degrees from American universities in engineering are women, according to data from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). By our calculus, this means that 81% of undergraduate degree-earners in the field of engineering are men. It’s been a trend across college campuses for many years and it’s one some colleges are still struggling to address. So let’s get to the bottom of this.

Gender Disparity in Engineering

“The Washington Post” published a terrific table that highlighted the gender disparity in engineering across the nation, based on data from the 2014-2015 academic year. To give our readers the Cliff’s Notes version of this data, 39% of Princeton University graduates earning degrees in engineering during that academic year were women. At Yale University, the figure stood at 49%, Brown University 41%, Dartmouth College 38%, California Institute of Technology 38%, Cornell University 37%, Columbia University 37%, University of Pennsylvania 35%, Stanford University 33%, Duke University 31%, and Harvard University 29%. You get the idea.

Further supporting this point, there was recently an article published in “The Brown and White,” the newspaper of Lehigh University, by Kayla Sippin entitled “Gender imbalances occur across Lehigh’s colleges” that we figured we’d highlight. At Lehigh, as of the fall of 2017, 67% of students enrolled in the engineering school are men, while 33% are women. In Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences, 33% of students are men, while 67% are women. Lehigh serves as a case example of an institution trying to combat this gender disparity. As Sippin writes, “[Meg Munley, a research analyst at the Office of Institutional Research] said the process is slow, but gender equity in Lehigh’s colleges has increased over time. ‘The ’70s is when (Lehigh) started to admit women at the undergraduate level, so there are going to be smaller percentages there,’ Munley said. ‘But even back to the ’90s, you’re looking at around 16 to 17 percent female in (the engineering college).'”

Colleges Bucking the Trend in Engineering

But there is hope that colleges will one day soon be able to buck this trend. There is hope that there will be as many (or more!) female graduates in engineering as male. In fact, we mentioned that in 2014-2015, 38% of Dartmouth College engineering graduates were female. But in June 2016, we shared with our readers an important announcement from the Thayer School of Engineering, which read as follows: “Dartmouth College granted 54% of its undergraduate engineering degrees to women this week, making it the first national research university to award more bachelor’s degrees in engineering to women than men…‘By thinking creatively about the content, context, and delivery of engineering education, Dartmouth has achieved a milestone,’ said Norman Fortenberry, executive director of the ASEE. ‘Other engineering colleges must now match this achievement.’”

While “The Washington Post” reported that 51% of degree-earners in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014-2015 were female, which would seemingly contradict Dartmouth’s claim of ‘first national research university to award more bachelor’s degrees in engineering to women,’ that’s all semantics. The fact is, these trailblazing schools  — among them Dartmouth and MIT — are bucking a national trend and inspiring other schools to follow their lead.

Ivy Coach salutes universities like Dartmouth and MIT for their trailblazing ways!

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