The world is in need of talented people who can design, develop, and drive innovative solutions to global grand challenges. In efforts to maximize talent development, United States institutions have engaged in activities to broaden the participation of women and other persons from groups which have been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Despite decades of activity to produce a workforce that reflects the rich diversity of the population, only incremental increases in the numbers of women and racial and ethnic minorities have been realized. Keeping pace with national increases, the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) has engaged in innovative intervention programs that have resulted in notable positive outcomes for women students. These impactful interventions led by the PSU Center for Engineering Outreach and Inclusion (CEOI), enhance the student experience from orientation to career. This center houses the Women in Engineering Program (WEP), the Multicultural Engineering Program, the Campus Outreach Program and the Undergraduate Research and Engagement Office.
Among these important programs the PSU WEP has demonstrated significant positive impacts on the student experience. Cohorts of women who participate in WEP interventions excel academically. These women are retained and graduate at rates higher than cohorts of women who do not participate. Data also shows that women who participate in WEP programs demonstrate higher retention and graduation rates than their male counterparts. Positive intervention programs include WEP Orientation, WEP academic support, first year seminars, networking, mentoring, and professional development. Further, the positioning of WEP in CEOI enables this program to favorably impact other enrichment programs that reach across inclusion groups. A notable example is Engineering Mentoring for Internship Excellence (EMIX) which serves a broad constituency group.
Realizing that the education of women is one of the most impactful drivers in improving global prosperity and desiring to inspire and graduate the kind of engineers who make the world a better place, the PSU college of engineering is seeking to make more transformational increases in the number of women engineering graduates. This activity leverages the success of WEP and engages academic programs to provide compelling student experiences to draw interest from women and other persons from groups underrepresented in engineering. Success towards equity requires careful review of all programs with an eye towards inclusivity. Advancement of gender inclusion also demands that engineering programs identify and articulate the “why” for engineering majors. In addition, success requires that engineering programs establish collaborations with academic programs where gender balance must be aggressively addressed (mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering and computer science and engineering). Enacting efforts to reach aspirational inclusion goals also provides opportunities to identify descriptive programs (such as Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship) in which future engineers can be further inspired to use engineering practice to improve global societal outcomes.
To effectively change the face of the engineering workforce requires that colleges engage men as allies. Experience in gender balanced classrooms and engineering teams in college can help produce professional colleagues who interrupt many of the challenges currently faced by women in working environments. In this presentation we will discuss the success of WEP programs. We will describe efforts of the Gender Equity Initiative to increase the number of women to reach 50% of engineering graduates by 2026. We will also discuss new programs to help engage and graduate men and women who advance equity as allies for inclusion in the global workforce.