NerdScholar’s Favorite Women in Engineering Programs

Women Engineering

What happened to women in engineering? Between 2006 and 2010, women received just over half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees from the top 50 academic institutions that award them. When you isolate engineering degrees, however, the data tell a different story; the number of women in the field of engineering has actually decreased. From 1999 to 2009, women dropped from 19.8% of the total enrollment in engineering programs to 17.9%, even as overall enrollment in engineering programs increased by 30%.

Within the fields of science and engineering, specific degrees differ by sex. Women take the lion’s share of bachelor’s degrees in chemistry (50%), biological sciences (60%), psychology (77%), agricultural sciences (51%) and social sciences (54%).  Men earn the majority of degrees in engineering (82%), computer science (82%) and physics (81%).

NerdScholar’s Favorite Women in Engineering Programs are examples of standout university programs that provide unique resources and opportunities for female engineers. Each school, in their own way, encourages women to explore and pursue engineering. These schools have higher than average rates of female degree earners and can serve as a model for other programs looking to close the gender gap.

 

Harvey Mudd College – Engineering Program

Harvey Mudd provides ample resources and opportunities for women who are interested in engineering. Harvey Mudd’s project-based, hands-on engineering program is designed to support and mentor females as they pursue their degrees. Elizabeth Orwin, Professor of Engineering and Associate Dean for Research and Experiential Learning explains, “Harvey Mudd has a high percentage of women faculty in our department, so female students have more role models and examples of different pathways through engineering.”

Orwin also believes the experiential learning opportunities offered by Harvey Mudd’s engineering program are beneficial for women because they help students “to realize their own abilities early in their academic career”. The Harvey Mudd Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers is also very active. Amongst many other activities, the society provides mentorship to high school females who are interested in engineering.

Last year, in Harvey Mudd’s Class of 2013, 42% of engineering degrees went to women. This spring the college is on track to graduate its first ever class in which women make up the majority of engineering majors. The Class of 2014 currently has 56% female engineering majors.

University of Maryland – Women in Engineering 

The Women in Engineering Program at University of Maryland was established in 1995 by a grant through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The program offers various opportunities that promote the role of women in the field of engineering. There is a living-learning community that brings together academic interests into a residential setting. Students in the community take a one-credit seminar and get a chance to network, participate in professional development, listen to guest speakers and develop their leadership skills. There are also a wide variety of social activities including a trip to Washington D.C. and birthday celebrations.

As of fall of 2013, 29.4% of University of Maryland’s first-year engineering students are women. Paige Smith, Director of the Women in Engineering program explains, “Diversity and the inclusion of women are critical to the field of engineering. Diversity inspires creativity, which in turn drives innovative design. Inclusion ensures that all people have a seat at the table. At the University of Maryland, we send a clear message to prospective engineering students that engineering is not only an exciting career, but one that is critical for improving lives and the world around us.”

 

Clemson University – Women in Science and Engineering

The Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) department at Clemson University is committed to educating women about career options in the fields of science and engineering. Since its inception, this national award-winning program has increased the retention of its female students and in turn, the number of female engineering graduates. Through a wide array of programming, including opportunities for mentoring, counseling, study groups, and networking, WISE sets its female students up for success.

WISE has many retention efforts including the Women in Science and Engineering Residents (WISER) program, a living and learning community dedicated to the professional development of sophomore women engineers. In partnership with the Workforce Development Center, WISE now offers Yellow Belt Six Sigma Certification as a Creative Inquiry class.  Thus, the WISER students will receive course credit and a professional certification. The WISE program director, Serita Acker, feels strongly that giving students additional professional tools will provide students a cutting edge when seeking future employment.

 

Purdue University – Women in Engineering Program

Purdue University’s Women in Engineering Program is designed to help female students discover their inner engineer. This begins even before the students ever step foot on campus. Each female that is admitted to the College of Engineering is matched with a female undergraduate engineering student who can answer questions and share their personal experience with the program.

The Women in Engineering Program is committed to introducing the first-year women engineers to a supportive and welcoming environment. After arriving on campus, first-year students can elect to be matched up with second-year mentors. They can also take a first year seminar designed to share career options for women in the field of engineering as well as take advantage of free tutoring for first-year engineering classes.

 

Oregon State University – Office of Women and Minorities in Engineering

Oregon State’s Office of Women and Minorities in Engineering (WME) works to inspire and encourage females and minority students to pursue careers in engineering.  By providing additional resources to underrepresented populations, WME hopes to diversify the field of engineering.

WME provides a “Special Topics” course targeted specifically at freshmen female engineers. Student are also encouraged to get involved with student organizations such as Phi Sigma Rho, a national social society for women engineers. The WME Scholars program offers first-year students opportunities to get involved in laboratory research while being mentored by a faculty member and getting paid. The Office also provides a comprehensive list of scholarships specifically for women, including five scholarships that are allocated by the Office itself.

 

 

The Future of Women in Engineering

Women’s enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs has decreased over the past decade.

While most science and engineering majors require similar skill sets, the male-dominated fields listed tend to be higher paying. According to the most recent salary survey released by NACE, engineering is the highest earning degree, with recent graduates earning, on average, $62,062 annually. Recent graduates in certain specialties, such as petroleum engineering and computer engineering, are bringing home an average salary of $96,200 and $70,300 respectively. Science-oriented students, male or female, could increase their earning potential by acquiring skills in these fields.There are plenty of reasons that may contribute to women’s low participation in engineering. Women may be reluctant to participate in engineering programs due to a lack of mentors, stereotype threat or other reasons. We hope that more schools can follow in our Favorites’ footsteps, in order to inspire more young women to pursue careers in the field of engineering.

 

Year
Total undergraduate enrollment in engineering programs
Percent female enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs

1999

361,395

19.8%

2000

390,803

19.5%

2001

409,557

19.2%

2002

421,178

18.5%

2003

421,791

18.0%

2004

419,387

17.7%

2005

409,326

17.2%

2006

405,489

17.2%

2007

431,910

17.2%

2008

442,952

17.5%

2009

468,139

17.9%

 

There are plenty of reasons that may contribute to women’s low participation in engineering. Women may be reluctant to participate in engineering programs due to a lack of mentors, stereotype threat or other reasons. We hope that more schools can follow in our Favorites’ footsteps, in order to inspire more young women to pursue careers in the field of engineering.

 

Use our Scholarship Search to find scholarships for just for women in engineering! 

 

Female Engineer Photo Courtesy of ShutterStock

**Data gathered from the National Science Foundation**

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