Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 24, 2001
June 24, 2001
June 27, 2001
6.857.1 - 6.857.11
Science Related Degrees: Improving the Retention of Women and Minorities through Research Experience, Mentoring and Financial Assistance Barbara M. Moskal, Debra Lasich, Nigel Middleton Colorado School of Mines
I. Theoretical Backgrounds
The importance of retaining and advancing women and minorities in science related fields has been supported by several arguments. The first argument relies upon the concepts of fairness and equity. By not participating in science related fields, women and minorities are barred from the economic rewards of these fields1, 2. More recent arguments recognize that not only is female and minority participation advantageous to the individual, but also to the advancement of a given field. Women and minorities have made contributions to fields that are unique from that of the majority population 3- 8.
There is evidence that the participation of women and minorities has had positive results in both educational and work environments. For example according to Johnson5, the increase in female enrollment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that resulted from affirmative action was coupled with an increase in the overall quality of students. Linn8 reported that businesses in marketing and consumer product development have also witnessed unexpected benefits from the increase in the number of female employees. According to Astin6, the extent to which students socialize with different racial groups is positively related to both their overall academic achievement and their knowledge gains within a given discipline. Similar benefits may result from an increased participation of women and minorities in science related fields. However, due to the low percentage of women and minorities that are currently in these fields, it is difficult to predict the nature of these benefits.
Wulf 9, the president of the National Academy of Engineering, has speculated that increasing the number of women and minorities in engineering would result in an increase in productivity in the field. He has argued that creativity, which is central to engineering, is influenced by background. Women and minorities bring to the field a background that is different from that of their white male counterparts. If, as has been found in other fields, women and minorities make unique contributions, then their under representation within a given field is detrimental to that field.
Wulf has also raised concerns that U.S. enrollment in engineering has been declining since 1983. Over this same period, the enrollment of minorities in engineering has dropped by three percent. Although the enrollment of women in engineering has remained relatively stable during this period, the enrollment of women in computer science has witnessed a substantial drop10. As a
“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education”
Middleton, N., & Lasich, D., & Moskal, B. (2001, June), Retaining Women And Minorities In Science And Engineering: Efforts At The Colorado School Of Mines Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9742
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