How MIT Closed the Gender Gap in Mechanical Engineering

According to the American Society for Engineering Education, only 13.2 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in mechanical engineering in 2015 were earned by women. But at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 49.5 percent of all undergraduate majors in mechanical engineering are women.

How did MIT eliminate the gender gap in this male-dominated field? A group of MIT students and faculty conducted a study and presented their findings at the 2017 Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education.

The study found that a key element in reducing the engineering gender gap was a focus by the admissions office in recruiting women applicants who were interested in the field. They also found that the hiring of women faculty in the field and the promotion of women to leadership positions can have a significant impact in attracting women students in mechanical engineering. MIT has a strong recruitment program for recruiting women faculty in the field.

Research also showed that women students wanted assurance that if they pursued a degree in mechanical engineering that they would be able to get a job in the field when they finished their studies. MIT makes sure to inform women that they will be in demand in the workplace.

Dawn Wendell, a senor lecturer in mechanical engineering at MIT who participated in the research, stated that “we aren’t just looking to make MIT a more welcoming place for women engineers, we also want to change the world. Subtle bias is everywhere. I’m often mistaken for an administrative assistant, and when I give talks elsewhere, people will walk right past me and ask where the invited speaker is.”

Dr. Wendell hold bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, all from MIT.


Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/StudySTEM Fields


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