The U-M is doing its part to guarantee that tomorrows engineersthe technical experts who design our cars, manage our manufacturing plants and create new bioengineered drugs and medical devicesare much more likely to be women.
Just over 30 percent of the more than 1,000 first-year students enrolled in the College of Engineering this September are womenthe highest percentage in the Colleges history and nearly twice the national average.
The number of U-M undergraduate women preparing for careers in engineering has been climbing since the late 1980s, according to Michael G. Parsons, associate dean for undergraduate education. In fall 1994, statistics compiled by the Engineering Workforce Commission showed that the U-M ranked third in the countryjust behind the University of Puerto Rico and the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyin its percentage of female engineering undergraduates. At that time, 25 percent of the more than 6,000 engineering undergraduates enrolled in the College of Engineering were women. The national average was 18.6 percent.
Parsons says the increasing number of women engineers-in-training at the U-M is no accident. It is the result of a deliberate policy decision and the efforts of many individuals and organizations.
Admissions standards for the College of Engineering are among the highest in the country and are more rigorous than any other college or school at the U-M. The academic performance, retention rates and graduation rates of our female engineering students are virtually the same as those of male engineering students, Parsons says.
One of the strategic goals within the College is to build womens enrollment up to 40 percent and make U-M the place of choice for young women who want to study engineering, Parsons says. We are doing this to educate outstanding Michigan engineers and to make all our students educational experience a model of the year 2020 when 40 percent of the engineering workforce will be women. Its the best preparation we can give our students for the future in which they will live and work.
The biggest obstacle we face in achieving this goal is the dwindling pool of young women in high school who are interested in science or engineering careers, said Sharon R. Burch, College of Engineering director of transfer admissions and recruitment. Engineering provides a wide variety of applications and tremendous career paths for women, as well as opportunities to express creativity not available in other professions. But we need more female role models in engineering to show young women how they can succeed.
Parsons credits an active university-wide outreach effort to high schools and middle schools for the upward trend in womens enrollment, including:
We still have a long way to go, but the level of commitment within the College and the University makes me confident we will achieve the 40 percent goal by the year 2000, Parsons says.
The more women we enroll, the more successful our future recruiting efforts will be, Burch adds.