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Attracting Women To Engineering That Serves Developing Communities

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

International and Sustainability Perspectives and Women in Engineering

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.261.1 - 11.261.10



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Paper Authors


Angela Bielefeldt University of Colorado-Boulder

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Dr. Bielefeldt is an Associate Professor and a licensed P.E. in the State of Colorado. She teaches Civil and Environmental Engineering courses for freshman, seniors, and graduate students on topics including design, hazardous waste management, solid waste management, and bioremediation. She is a co-faculty advisor for the Engineers Without Borders student chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU). Prof. Bielefeldt is working with other faculty at CU to start a new emphasis in Engineering for Developing Communities at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Attracting Women to Engineering that Serves Developing Communities Abstract

The University of Colorado at Boulder has created a program in Engineering for Developing Communities (EDC). It is currently formalized as a graduate program within the Environmental sub-discipline of Civil Engineering. Longer term plans are to create a certificate option for undergraduate students in the College of Engineering. In the meantime, a variety of courses have included EDC-related content and projects. Service-learning and active-learning opportunities to serve developing communities are available at the University of Colorado. To date, anecdotal evidence exists that the EDC program is particularly attractive to women. In the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student chapter at the University of Colorado, the leadership board has been composed of 40-62% women over the years fall 2002 to spring 2005, compared to 25% and 15% on the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE-CU) and American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME-CU) boards in the 2004-2005 academic year, respectively. A nationwide survey of 35 to 45 different student chapters of these same organizations (EWB, ASCE, ASME) show more similar percentages of women on the leadership boards. At 22 universities where the ASCE student chapter has an “Outreach” or “Community Service” officer, 66% of these positions are filled by women. An on-going research project on a simple and low cost drinking water treatment device, the Filtrón, has attracted eight undergraduate researchers including 50% women and 50% minorities. In a college-wide undergraduate research internship program, the topics serving developing communities have attracted more women and minority student applicants than the average project topic. Although it appears that EDC is particularly attractive to women, larger sample sizes and broader evaluation of control populations are needed to confirm this hypothesis. Efforts are on-going to gather more definitive evidence. However, if a greater awareness of the opportunities to serve society were made known more women might enter engineering as a major in college and eventually as a profession.


After gains in the representation of women graduating with engineering degrees from around 1990 to 2000, more recently these numbers have been declining in the US and Canada1 ( Based on U.S. data from a variety of sources, the percentage of bachelor’s degrees in engineering that were awarded to women has been fairly constant at about 20-21% from 1999 through 2004 (see Figure 1)2,3,4,5. The representation of women in engineering varies significantly by major, with 40.6, 36.5, 23.1, and 13.7% of environmental, chemical, civil, and mechanical engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to women in 20043.

Bielefeldt, A. (2006, June), Attracting Women To Engineering That Serves Developing Communities Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--715

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