Engineers solve problems. So here’s one to contemplate. Why don’t young women want to be engineers? After decades of recruitment efforts, engineering schools are still failing to attract female students in substantial numbers. Latest ASEE data show that last year the percentage of women who received BAs in engineering dipped to the lowest representation in nearly 10 years–a meager 19%. In most high schools, girls now get their share of math and science, and there are plenty of girls who are prepared to study engineering—they just don’t want to. Our cover story, “Generation Gap,” looks at this ongoing problem and considers some of the reasons girls don’t choose engineering. One view is that engineering is not considered a “service” profession in the way that medicine is. The number of women now studying medicine exceeds that of men. Apparently, though, this is just one of several reasons it remains difficult to expand the number of women studying to be engineers.
Perhaps innovations in engineering education will both encourage women and improve the way engineering is taught. “Taking the Plunge” reports on the creative engineering curriculum at a new school, Olin College, and looks at its first graduating class. Olin started from scratch in 2002 with $460 million and the vision of producing engineers with both business skills and a grasp of the needs of the global community. Having lured top faculty and established a state-of-the-art campus, the school attracted high-achieving students with a curriculum that merged design classes, engineering, sociology, economics, and politics. Offering each selected student a four-year, full-tuition scholarship, worth perhaps $130,000, didn’t hurt either. Today, graduates of Olin credit the curriculum and the unique learning process with landing them choice jobs and spots in top graduate programs.
“A Practical Visionary” profiles Richard Liebich, an engineer-industrialist, philanthropist, and founder of Project Lead the Way, a successful engineering and technology curriculum that provides a standardized set of courses designed to help secondary school students succeed in college-level engineering. In Teaching Toolbox, Prism reports on efforts underway at schools to get engineering students to write more effectively. Finally, Last Word looks at remedying what may be a continuing problem in encouraging more women to be engineers: sex discrimination.
As always, we have attempted to provide a variety of timely and interesting stories. If you have comments or suggestions, I would welcome hearing from you.
Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher