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Women Engineers -A Declining Trend

Written by on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

One would think that after decades of encouragement and opportunities the number of women engineers in the United States would be trending up but current numbers from 2012 paint a different story. With young people finally embracing the engineering field to the tune of 84,000 U.S. students graduating with an engineering degree in 2012, up from 73,000 in 2006, the number of U.S women engineers during the same time period is actually slightly more than 25% and the percentage has been stuck at slightly more than 25% since 1991.

This alarming trend has many analysts scratching their collective heads. It’s clear that a message is being transmitted that engineering degrees offer opportunity and growth that promises to keep engineers full employed and at the top of the salary scale as is noted in the increase of 12% of graduate engineers between 2006 and 2012 but for some reason the message hasn’t resonated with women. Some believe that girls aren’t readily attracted to math and sciences and are derailed off the engineering path as early as the fifth grade. Studies have shown that if kids don’t take Algebra by the 8th grade they are off the coursework track to prepare them for the engineering curriculum. Another theory paints a picture that girls avoid the engineering fields because of a perceived male dominated workforce. Certainly the statistics would agree with this but with gender doors being opened all over, the trend should have re-balanced.

Although there are many women engineers in the U.S. today, the reality of the situation is that slightly more than 25% is a stagnant number and without earlier programs, specifically targeted to bring a greater interest and excitement into the engineering fields at a younger age, the numbers will remain the same. With countries like China and India graduating thousands upon thousands of engineers every year, it’s high time the U.S. takes notice of the alarming trend and takes proactive steps to encourage an interest in engineering and more so for women.

 

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