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Implementing Institutional Change To Increase Engineering Diversity

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Knowing Students: Diversity & Retention

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.697.1 - 9.697.7

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Paper Authors

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J.D., Christine Andrews

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Leslie Wilkins

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

Session Number: 1430

Implementing Institutional Change to Increase Engineering Diversity

Christine L. Andrews, J.D. and Leslie Wilkins Maui Economic Development Board, Inc.


The barriers to gender equity in engineering are daunting in an environment where boys and girls only 9 years old have internalized gender stereotypes that dictate that physical-science and technology are for boys and that life science is for girls. In a world where minorities are projected to make up more than 40% of new workforce entrants by 2008, it is unacceptable that white high school students are four times more likely than African American students to take pre-calculus or calculus. The reality is that girls graduate high school with skills and knowledge comparable to boys, but are far less likely than boys to pursue engineering. In contrast, while comparably few minorities graduate high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully enter engineering studies, they do so in numbers representative of their participation in college education as a whole, but are far less likely than whites to graduate.

In the absence of institutional change to rectify the unintentional inequities preventing equal access to engineering education by underrepresented groups, isolated recruitment and retention programs have had only modest success in generating real growth in the numbers of women or minorities entering engineering. If engineering educators are to succeed in attracting and keeping the diverse engineering students so desperately needed by today’s technology workforce, they must take the lead in working towards the institutional change necessary to turn the tide towards parity in engineering education. The latest research and successes from institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology illustrate key areas for institutional change shown to be effective in recruiting and retaining greater numbers of women and minorities in engineering education. These areas include: effective K-12 outreach programs, K-12 teacher training, curriculum realignment, admissions policy reform, faculty recruitment and student leadership. This paper will outline suggested strategies for implementation by engineering educators ready to serve as leaders at diversifying engineering.

Overview of the Under Representation of Women and Minorities in Quantitative Fields

It is estimated that over the next ten years, the U.S. will need an additional 1.9 million workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).1 Traditionally, the STEM workforce has consisted of mostly white, non-Hispanic men, who made up 70% of the STEM workforce in 1997.2 In the same year, underrepresented minorities - African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians - comprised just over 6% of the general STEM workforce.2 This reliance on a predominately white, male workforce is troubling in the face of the changing demographics of

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Andrews, J. C., & Wilkins, L. (2004, June), Implementing Institutional Change To Increase Engineering Diversity Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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