Brian L. Yoder recently reported on the top ten schools ranked by percentage of women awarded bachelor’s degrees, and number one was Smith at 95%, number 10 was Yale at 38.2%, and ERE is now averaging 40% and in 9th place, and in good company with Franklin Olin College, Howard, MIT, Tuskegee, CalTech, and Harvey Mudd to name other top 10 schools. Our only surprise is the article did not include ERE – an understandable oversight given we are a department and not an entire school. Nonetheless, this is a rank we are working to promote. The ESF and ERE community certainly does not side with the at times brilliant and misguided Larry Summers that we should expect fewer than 50% enrollment of women in engineering.

You can read more about this important issue Yoder’s a Databytes article, “Women in Engineering“, published by the American Society for Engineering Education informative Prism Magazine . As reported by Yoder, Environmental Engineering is the top engineering field for women, approaching 50% of all degrees in a survey of 905 degrees awarded in 2012.

Women in Engineering ranking of Top 10 Schools based on Degrees awarded to Women. ESF's ERE program would be #9 if included in the survey!

Women in Engineering ranking of Top 10 Schools based on Degrees awarded to Women. ESF’s ERE program would be #9 if included in the survey!

Recruiting, retaining, and graduating more female engineers is a critical issue for securing a better planet and achieving socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable engineering designs. Here is simple reason to bring more women into engineering – design is inherently about considering alternatives, and proper consideration needs to include perspectives of 50% of our population, hence women are needed in engineering. Many programs have fewer than 10% female enrollment and graduates.

Female high school graduates are certainly earning their place in engineering programs by achieving the entrance requirements in test scores and grades; in fact Richard Whitmere, an educational researcher, suggests boys may need affirmative action to out-compete girls for 50% or more of the available openings in college admissions.  There is ongoing research on differences and similarities between male and female learning styles, as well as bridging across styles, as described in Dr. Guian’s book, “Boys and Girls Learn Differently”, which is discussed on a blog site advocating for male students. According to Whitmire’s book, “Why Boys Fail”, the K-12 educational system demands more reading and writing than boys are ready to engage, which may partly explain the history of gender separation in engineering if it’s emphasis on math and science had provided a refuge for boys. Communication is also emphasized in engineering, and by increasing female enrollment in engineering education we collectively enrich the whole.

Need we say more.

Need we say more.

While the ERE program is proud of its 40% female enrollment at the undergraduate level, we are not content. Our goal is to grow this number to 50%, and perhaps keep going if women out compete men for positions. Thankfully, we have a large percentage of women in our graduate programs, as well. Dr. Endreny has 7 female graduate students in his graduate team of 12, and the scholarly contributions achieved by this gender balanced team are rich, diverse, and fun! Part of the fun is captured by the GoldieBlox toy company, designed to enhance spatial reasoning in girls, and the Sesame Street STEM campaign geared toward sharing with girls how cool engineering can be as a career.

 

Sesame Street Often Says it Best.

Sesame Street Often Says it Best.

ERE’s recent outreach efforts have made engineering fun and encouraged the next generation to engage this excellent profession!

ERE's Paul Szemkow oversees fountain design and performance testing.

ERE’s Paul Szemkow oversees fountain design and performance testing.

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