June 15, 1997
June 15, 1997
June 18, 1997
2.34.1 - 2.34.8
A Pipeline to Recruit Women Into Engineering
Stephanie L. Blaisdell, Mary R. Anderson-Rowland Arizona State University
Women constituted only 17% of those awarded bachelor degrees in engineering in 19951, a slight increase (16%) from the previous year2. The future does not seem much brighter, either. In 1990, senior males in public high schools were more than three times as likely to choose a career in science, math or engineering than women3. Interest in engineering careers among college freshmen in 1995 reached a 20-year low, with only 2% of the women planning to enter engineering majors4, a percentage that remained constant in 19965. Minority women are the least represented in engineering, making up only 4.8% of the 1995-96 freshman class6 and receiving 7 only 2.2 percent of the Bachelor's degrees in engineering in 1994 . The underrepresentation of women and minorities in engineering is particularly disturbing when one considers the shifting demographics in the workforce: By the year 2000, economic expansion will create up to 18 million new jobs, but the number of young job seekers will decline due to a shift in birth rates. Reflecting changes in racial and ethnic populations, the entry rate of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders and American Indians and Alaska Natives into the workforce will be higher than for whites. Women of all racial and ethnic groups will be the major source of new entrants into the labor force, comprising 47 percent of the total workforce by 2000, compared to 45 percent in 1988. Half of women in the workforce will be between 25 and 44. Between 1988 and the year 2000, white men will comprise only 25 percent of the net growth of the labor force. Occupations most likely to grow include service, professional, technical, sales and executive and management positions8.
In order to maintain the necessary supply of engineers in the U.S., women must be recruited into engineering careers in greater numbers. Furthermore, in order to ensure that engineering problems are approached from a variety of angles, women, and other "non-traditional" engineers must be sought. Research suggests that the crucial intervention point for encouraging girls to pursue math- and science-related fields such as engineering is during middle school.
As early as the seventh grade, boys plan to study more math than girls do9. However, intervening in middle school, while necessary, is certainly not sufficient. One study found an overall decline
Blaisdell, S. L., & Anderson-Rowland, M. (1997, June), A Pipeline To Recruit Women Into Engineering Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. https://peer.asee.org/6732
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