Diversity in Science and Engineering

Posted on January 23, 2006  Comments (4)

Diversity in Science & Engineering: Reflecting on the Summers Hypothesis by David Keyes. More discussion of possible causes for the under-representation of certain demographic groups in science and engineering community and possible changes that could improve the situation should be encouraged.

China graduates about 600,000 bachelor’s-level engineers per year, compared to 70,000 for the US, and it costs about one-fifth as much to employ an engineer in China. India graduates 350,000 engineers per year, and employs them for one-eleventh as much. In the past, the US counted on importing the best of foreign trained engineering bachelor’s holders, who now make up 65 percent of the doctoral degree candidates in engineering at US universities. Today, fewer foreign-born US Ph.D. holders can be expected to remain in the US, now that their native infrastructures for S&E research and education are improving.

I encourage people to explore Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate by Dr. Gary Gereffi and Vivek Wadhwa. I find the report compelling. Still, I would like some confirmation (or compelling arguments detailing what is wrong with the study) that the numbers in Duke’s report are more relevant than those quoted above, and elsewhere.

Also, in this context wouldn’t looking at the diversity of the engineers in China and India be interesting?

There are many ways of slicing demographic data, but by any metric, the US is failing to train a competitive number of domestic scientists and engineers. It produces only about 5.5 S&E bachelor’s degrees per 100 24-year-olds overall, according to 2004 NSF data. Raising the participation of women in S&E in their 24-year-old cohort (currently 4.5 per 100) to that of men (currently 7 per 100 in theirs) is one strategy. Raising the participation of African Americans (currently 3 per 100) and Hispanics (currently 2.5 per 100) is another, particularly as the latter population base grows relative to Caucasians (with 6 per 100). Meanwhile, Asians and Pacific Islanders in the US account for 14.5 S&E bachelor’s degrees per 100 24-year-olds in their cohort.

I believe there is no one cause for the current demographic makeup of various slices of the science and engineering community and there will be no one change that will bring dramatic results. Many good things have been done and progress has been made. There is still room for many more improvements, but I think the future will be made better by hundreds and thousands of relatively small incremental improvements.

Women in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon has several papers online discussing some of the discoveries made while improving female representation at the University.

Transforming the Culture of Computing at Carnegie Mellon
, by Lenore Blum:

In 1995, the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) began an effort to bring more women into its undergraduate computer science (CS) program.
At that time, just 7% (7 out of 96) of entering freshman computer science majors at
Carnegie Mellon were women. Five years later, in 1999, the percentage of women in the
entering class had increased fivefold to about 38% (50 out of 130).

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4 Responses to “Diversity in Science and Engineering”

  1. Curious Cat: Blog Archive » Fixing Engineering’s Gender Gap
    March 14th, 2006 @ 6:52 pm

    We need to do a better job of taking advantage of what women engineers can bring to our economy. By taking sensible actions… we can create a system that produces more women engineers and we will benefit from that result…

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Blog Archive » Diversity Focus
    August 6th, 2006 @ 7:38 am

    “Women now hold more than a quarter of all science and engineering jobs, compared with 13 percent in 1980. They now earn roughly half the doctorates in biology and degrees in medicine. Numbers are also up in physics, computer science and engineering, traditionally male domains…”

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Women Choosing Other Fields Over Engineering and Math
    May 26th, 2008 @ 10:59 pm

    An import factor, to me anyway, is that women are now graduating from college in far higher numbers than men. And in many science fields female baccalaureate graduates outnumber male graduates…

  4. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Women Working in Science
    October 13th, 2008 @ 5:24 pm

    Proportion of Females in the following fields, from the article:
    Psychologists 67.3%
    Biological Scientists 48.7%
    Computer Programmers 26.0%
    Chemical Engineers 14.3%
    Mechanical Engineers 5.8%

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