Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
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Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Upping the Numbers

Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Mary C. Mattis

Advances in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are key factors in contributing to future economic performance, higher living standards and improved quality of life. As dominant white males near retirement and immigration slows, developed countries face a serious skill shortage in critical STEM disciplines. This fascinating book examines why the numbers of women and minorities in STEM are low, outlines the potential consequences of this and prescribes much needed solutions to the problem.
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Chapter 14: Upstream and Downstram in the Engineering Pipeline: What’s Blocking US Women from Pursuing Engineering Careers?

Mary C. Mattis


14. Upstream and downstream in the engineering pipeline: what’s blocking US women from pursuing engineering careers? Mary C. Mattis BACKGROUND Despite 30 years of efforts to increase women’s (and minorities’) representation in the US engineering workforce, women’s gains have actually eroded in the past decade. In 2002, women held just 11.6 percent of engineering jobs in business and industry. Between 1983 and 1999 women’s representation among practicing engineers increased by only 5 percentage points (US Department of Labor, 2002). More disturbing, there has been a marked decline in women’s participation in college-level engineering study. In 2005, women accounted for 19.5 percent of recipients of bachelor’s degree in engineering; however, they made up just 17.5 percent of freshmen engineering students, down from 19.6 percent in 1998–99 (ASEE, 2004). The recent declines in women’s enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs give cause for concern in that they have occurred during years of substantial growth of total engineering degrees and enrollments (Engineering Trends, 2005). It is predicted that the maxima of students enrolled in US engineering programs will occur in AY2006–07 (possibly 2005–06), and the number of degrees will likely decline for at least five years thereafter (Engineering Trends, 2005). As the authors of a recent analysis of women in undergraduate engineering programs observe, ‘If the fraction of women continues to decline during a period where the total number of degrees declines, the number of women awarded engineering degrees will suffer significantly’ (Engineering Trends, 2005, p. 2). This...

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