New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Minorities in Engineering and Women in Engineering
Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee
Despite widespread effort over the past decade on the part of K12 and university educators, the private sector, and state and federal agencies, women are still under-represented in at the undergraduate level in some STEM disciplines, such as physics, mathematics, and mechanical and electrical engineering, while simultaneously equally or even over-represented in fields such as biosciences, environmental science, and biomedical engineering. This unequal distribution of female talent persists, despite increased awareness and achievement in STEM amongst high school age women. In many respects, this situation is similar to the medical profession, where women are entering and completing medical school at equal rates to their male colleagues, but they are concentrated in specific specialties, such as pediatrics and family medicine, while sparse in others. Orthopaedic Surgery is one of the least gender-diverse medical specialties, with 4% women in practice and 14% in residency (5-year apprenticeship following medical school). The affected population is relatively small, with approximately 28,000 practicing orthopaedic surgeons and 700 new surgeons licensed annually.
Since 2009, our group has conducted targeted outreach and mentoring efforts amongst the high school, college, and medical school population to improve gender diversity in the orthopaedic surgeon population. The program reaches upwards of 3,500 young women annually at program locations across the country. Similar to gender diversification of STEM majors in college, there is a long lead-time for orthopaedic surgery between intervention at the K12 level and the desired impact on the field in terms of recruitment of female talent. To track our progress towards our eventual end-goal of 30% females in the residency population, we have created a discrete logistic population dynamics model of the orthopaedic surgery pipeline, with “birth” (matriculation) and “death” (graduation) of the residency population by gender equating to an annual residency class of 670 to 700, anticipating growth of the overall residency class. The effect of our outreach programs was modeled with the birth rate for female residents equal to the sum of: (1) the steady-state birth rate (14% for the past 5 years); and (2) and the annual recruiting rate into the orthopaedics pipeline for our high school, college, and medical school outreach programs. A discrete, annual time-step approach was used to incorporate the appropriate time delay to account for the time it will take each cohort to enter residency. Recruiting rates were obtained from a 6-year follow-up study of our high school program and 3-year follow up of our medical school program. The results of this model indicate that our outreach efforts will yield 30% female residency population by program year 2020, and that these results may be sustained without further intervention until 2024.
Our results from this case study of the orthopaedic surgery profession are particularly relevant to diversification efforts for individual colleges’ engineering programs. Cohort sizes for most incoming engineering classes are similar to orthopaedic residency (on the order of 10^3), and multiple outreach efforts may exist at any given university with the mission to affect gender or racial diversification. We present our population dynamics model as a straightforward method for gauging the potential impact of such outreach efforts on student body composition. Outcome measures, such as time to achieve a particular gender and racial composition for an engineering class, may be obtained by specifying the recruitment rate for each outreach program, with an appropriate time delays for the developmental age of each outreach population. We advocate that engineering outreach efforts at the college level can be “re-engineered” with the guidance of this population dynamics model to reach desired diversity targets.
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