This was discussed at the WECS meeting this week, there’s a new attention to it as the number of women enrolled in undergraduate programs from a high of 20% to 17%. See the full report here. Recommendations are as follows:
- Raise the profile and improve the image of the profession.
- Explore how engineering curriculum and its delivery could, without compromising the high standards of the Canadian system, become more attractive to a greater diversity of students.
- Demonstrate the value of diversity in engineering education and in the workplace.
- Help better prepare female engineers for the workforce.
- Promote information-sharing on mentorship programs and the importance that mentors have in the attraction and retention of women in engineering.
- Work with industry on methods to help improve the retention of female engineers in the workforce and diversity in general.
I’m particularly interested in 1, 2 and 4.
1. This makes me wonder, is the lack of women self-perpetuating? Few women go into it so few are inclined to? Why is biology succeeding to attract women, where engineering fails?
2. Most beginner programming courses I’ve seen fail to engage. One thing I see regularly is having a solution (what you want to teach) and trying to twist a problem to fit it. Finding the right problem makes the solution seem much more intuitive. Also, making stuff that has no bearing on the real world. That’s a big one. Innovative curriculum designed for engagement could go a long way, I think. In Computer Science, particularly teaching Java, there’s no excuse not to do this. There are so many free and open source teaching tools out there.
4. It’s tough to work in a predominantly male environment. I’ve done it – the only other girl was the secretary. As nice as the boys were, it can be difficult. I’m hoping WISE can put together a workshop for this.
Let me know what you think, and how WISE could help!