Barely one in five engineering students is a woman, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.
Experts believe one culprit is that female students lack a sense of belonging within the engineering field. Some universities are working to create this environment with living-learning communities.
Women only represent 13% of jobs in engineering, but they do dominate these other 3 STEM fields
"When I struggled [as an engineering student], it really helped to have [other girls] around me," says Callie Zawaski, who attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). "Girls can be very insecure, so it's important for them to see that others are having similar struggles, and that they can support each other."
Virginia Tech is one of several schools that have established an all-female residence hall designed for STEM students. Zawaski says Hypatia, as the community is called, was a big part of her decision to attend Virginia Tech.
Hypatia also organizes:
- Charity events;
- Professional development events; and
- Visits to local high schools to spread the word about engineering.
"I wanted to go to a place where I felt supported, could get tutoring, and learn strategies for studying," says Allison Collier, a junior majoring in computer science and living in Hypatia.
Other schools that have established female-only STEM communities include Ohio State University and University of Texas at Austin (Anft, Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/22; National Girls Collaborative Project site, accessed 1/24).
Give STEM students co-curriculars and academic support