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Increasing Female Enrollment In The Industrial Engineering Program At The University Of Minnesota Duluth

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.574.1 - 6.574.17

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Martha Wilson

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

Session 1392


Martha C. Wilson University of Minnesota Duluth

I. Introduction

The national average for female students enrolled in Industrial Engineering programs in the U.S. is approximately 33%1. This figure is nearly three times the percentage of female students enrolled in the Industrial Engineering (IE) program at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), which is currently12%, ranging from a low of 9% percent to a high of 15% over the last 5 years. Although the department has speculated about reasons for this discrepancy, including the emphasis on manufacturing and laboratory courses, no formal study has been conducted to investigate this hypothesis. The department therefore decided to gather information to help understand why the female enrollment is low.

Initial efforts focused on gathering available data regarding the enrollment and retention of female students in the IE program. Surprisingly, the data was not readily available and certain types of retention information are kept for no more than two years. Although manual sorting and inspection provided some information, the college does not track data at the departmental level by gender. Except for participation in a national pilot survey conducted by the Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network (WEPAN) in Spring 1998, college wide data is not routinely collected to assess student views or perceptions.2 It was therefore necessary to first develop methods for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data and information, and to establish a methodology for ongoing studies and program development.

This paper describes the initial efforts of a study that was conducted to help the Industrial Engineering Department understand factors that contribute to the relatively low enrollment of females in the program, and to identify steps that the department can take to reduce this discrepancy. The study, which began during Fall Semester 2000, embraces the concept of continuous improvement and is expected to continue over the next several years. The following section describes the methodology.

II. The Methodology

The methodology used in this study is depicted in Figure 1 on the next page. The study began by gathering information to compare the IE program at UMD to similar engineering programs in the region in order to determine if the low female enrollment at UMD is a regional or a departmental attribute. The second step was to identify factors affecting female enrollment and assess student needs using various methods, such as focus groups, self-administered questionnaires, and interviews. Two of these methods were used for the first cycle: a focus group was created during Fall Semester 2000, and self-administered surveys were distributed during Spring 2001.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Wilson, M. (2001, June), Increasing Female Enrollment In The Industrial Engineering Program At The University Of Minnesota Duluth Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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