Thursday, October 20, 2005

Fast reaction to college gender gap

I'm at a conference on engineering education the second half of this week. A good portion of the conference focuses on how to increase participation in engineering by under-represented groups, which includes women. This, of course, has been a matter of concern for years, and the National Science Foundation has taken an especial interest in this, which includes requiring that all grant proposals address the broader impact of the research, of which a major component is to "...increase the participation of women, minorities and people with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)." So, it was especially ironic for me to read the USA Today article linked from this post's title.

Colleges that want to compete for the dwindling pool of men should emphasize male interests, such as sports, he [family therapist Michael Gurian] says, and offer more male role models.
As that article states, female college enrollment has reached an all-time high, with significantly more women than men earning degrees. This is a very recent phenomenon, but already people are saying that something needs to be done about it. I especially like the quote above, since of course so few colleges place much emphasis on sports (for example, we never hear about college sports in the mass media). Funny, but I believe that men far outnumbered women for many years (technically, centuries) before there was any call to do something about that. Meanwhile, enrollment of women in engineering (especially computer science) continues to drop.

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