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How to Attract More Women in Becoming Mechanical Engineers

This is how MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering did it.

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It is common that mechanical engineering is plagued with the absence of women in the field. According to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), only 13.2% of bachelor’s degrees in such course in 2015 were earned by women.

The main reason for this is that a big portion of the female population still do not find the job of mechanical engineers to be attractive, due to their perception of the job nature and scope of work being unideal for women.

Photo credit: MIT

That is why when Massachusetts Institute of Technology realized this, they used a proactive approach which was proven to be effective. As of 2016, MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering has an undergraduate population of 49.5% women.

MIT’s Office of Admissions set out a huge campaign in recruiting female applicants. “We have to fight against conventional wisdom,” says Dean of Admissions Stuart (Stu) Schmill, referring to the popular assumption that the Institute is predominantly male. In fact, MIT’s undergraduate population is 46.1% female.

The same office understood the importance of information dissemination through blogs including the Campus Preview Weekend.

“What made MIT stand out to me as an applicant were the student blogs,” recalls Xu, who graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. “They do a good job of showcasing the number of women and minorities at the school.”

MIT became effective in attracting female applicants by showcasing the number of women on campus, spreading the idea that other women are welcome to enroll. After they enroll for mechanical engineering, more often than not they lean on the female faculty for guidance and mentorship.

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It is also critical that women see that there are jobs for them in this field so that they are assured that their future is not compromised. MIT does this by giving leadership positions to female mechanical engineers in the faculty to serve as role models.

Photo by MIT

A study was conducted specifically to acknowledge the closing of gender gap in mechanical engineering. Kath Xu ’16, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering Dawn Wendell ’04 SM ’06 PhD ’11, and lecturer in comparative media studies and writing Andrea Walsh were part of the researchers who presented their results in the 2017 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference in June.

Source: MIT News

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