New findings released by Stanford University says that women engineering students perform as well as men but are more likely to switch to a different major, often because they don’t believe that their skills are good enough and they don’t feel like they “fit” in engineering, according to an article by Joanne McGrath Cohoon, an associate professor at the University of Virginia published in U.S. News and World Report.
Cohoon writes that the Stanford findings reinforce other studies that note gender stereotypes “create false expectations that men are naturally better engineers and computing professionals than women are.”
There is a need for women in technology fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts more job openings by 2018 for computer systems analysts, software engineers, and network systems and data communications analysts.
The Daily Trojan, the student newspaper of the University of Southern California, noted in November that there has been a recent increase of women in the fields of biology and medicine but that it is not an across-the-board change.
So how do we encourage women to pursue technical fields? Cohoon suggests starting in the classroom: Give women opportunities to succeed at technical tasks and encourage them.
USC is following this model by offering a variety of programs geared toward women in its math department. There is a summer program for all undergraduates thinking about applying to the graduate program as well as one for women who have been accepted to the program, and a Women in Science and finally an Engineering Program developed to increase the number of women in tenured and tenure-track faculty STEM positions.