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Women in Engineering

In a 2011 study published by the American Society for Engineering Education, a significant disparity still exists between the number of men and women who receive engineering degrees. While 50.6% of the US population and 47% of the US workforce is female, women only accounted for about 18.4% of the Bachelor's degrees in engineering awarded in 2011.


Source: ASEE Publications.



Source: ASEE Publications.

An even smaller percentage of women exists in the engineering workplace than in undergraduate engineering education: about 13.4%. This reality has been attributed to two main factors. First, women often cite family-oriented reasons for taking time off from work and say that the engineering industry is not conducive to such leaves of absence due to the incredibly fast rate of change in technology. Second, women, more often than men, choose to enter other fields such as law, medicine, and education after obtaining bachelor's degrees in engineering.

Studies have also attempted to trace this disparity back to the high school level. Although male and female high school students do not differ significantly in the science courses they take, male students are much more likely than female students to take physics classes -- advanced physics classes in particular. According to the Dean of Admissions at MIT, many math and science magnet high schools have roughly equal enrollment by gender. Most of the women from these schools, however, choose not to study math and science fields in college. Instead, they pursue courses of study in liberal arts, medicine, and law.

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Last Updated: November 3, 2013