In the engineering field, men outnumber women significantly. This is true of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers in general. The numbers are changing, however. From 2004 to 2014, the percentage of master’s degrees in engineering earned by women increased from 21 percent to 24 percent.
Put another way, in universities, the ratio of men to women who are pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering is four to one. Beyond college, the ratio drops to nine to one. The numbers of women in engineering management are even lower: for every 14 men in management, there is only one woman. Percentage-wise, that is 7 percent of all engineering managers.
The underrepresentation of women in engineering and other STEM careers has not gone unnoticed. Arkansas State University (A-State) would like to enroll more women in its Master of Engineering Management (MEM) degree program. Achieving equal representation of women and men in the engineering field will take a concerted effort.
Many organizations, websites and projects now share the goal of increasing the number of women in STEM fields.
National Women in Engineering Day (UK)
The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) started National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) in the United Kingdom in 2014 — it takes place annually on June 23. The day aims to increase public awareness of the engineering opportunities available to women by showcasing different groups who create their own events. In 2017, the celebration went international for the first time.
Society of Women Engineers
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is an organization that aims to give women engineers a place and a voice. SWE is over 60 years old and has evolved over time in response to new engineering challenges and opportunities. The organization offers membership, learning opportunities and scholarships. They also participate in and support K-12 outreach that encourages girls to pursue engineering.
Center for STEM Education for Girls
The Harpeth Hall School started the Center for STEM Education for Girls to give STEM teachers access to resources and provide STEM education opportunities to girls. The center’s website has links to various resources and learning opportunities, and they host their own Summer Institute and an annual Think Tank and Conference.
Engineer Girl is a website associated with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). The site launched in 2001 to help make girls more aware of the possibilities offered by a career in engineering. The site explains the different engineering fields and the skills each requires. It also features interviews with current engineers, offering real-life examples of an engineering career.
A creation of the National Girls Collaborative Project, FabFems is a directory of women in STEM careers who serve as role models for girls and young women. These women are available for guest speaking, demonstrations, or other educational opportunities for organizations and schools.
ADVANCE is a program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) that aims to increase diversity in the sciences and engineering by promoting the representation of women in these fields. The program, which has been in place since 2001, challenges the STEM community and academic institutions to recognize and change current practices and cultural mindsets that may create barriers for women.
There are a variety of programs and organizations already in place to encourage girls and women to pursue STEM careers. Public awareness of the issue is growing as well. As this combination of awareness and effort continues, more girls may choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics in high school and beyond.
Over time, the ratio of women to men in STEM fields may equalize. The online MEM program at A-State welcomes women in engineering who want to pursue a management degree, now and in the future.