What is the way to increasing the number of female engineers? Maybe it’s to give them more reason to be interested.
Lina Nilsson, Innovation Director at UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies, argues in the New York Times today that women are in fact well-represented in engineering fields that embody social purpose or a broader meaning.
When the Blum Center began offering a Ph.D. minor in development engineering last year, women accounted for half of students who signed up and are now working on affordable technologies to purify water, diagnose tropical diseases, and carry out manufacturing in low-income nations. Nilsson cites similar developments at Arizona State University (where humanitarian engineering courses have twice as many women as its traditional engineering classes), the University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University and Santa Clara University.
“What does all this show?” Nilsson writes. “It shows that the key to increasing the number of female engineers may not just be mentorship programs or child care centers, although those are important. It may be about reframing the goals of engineering research and curriculums to be more relevant to societal needs. It is not just about gender equity — it is about doing better engineering for us all.”