Research indicates that engineering does not have a higher dropout rate than other majors and women's persistence in the discipline is equal to men's, according to professor Matthew Ohland with Purdue University's School of Engineering Education.
"Engineering programs, on average, retain just as many students as other programs do, and once women get to college they're just as likely to stick around in engineering as are their male counterparts," he says. Nevertheless, Ohland acknowledges that more must be done to draw students to engineering programs, and he notes that "the road is narrow for students to migrate into engineering from other majors."
The research hints at a two-pronged strategy that educators should follow to boost the number of engineering graduates. This strategy involves identifying which programs are most successful at retaining students and the underlying reasons for their effectiveness, and creating programs and policies that let students transfer into engineering from other majors with greater ease.
Ohland maintains that recruitment rather than retention is the key problem behind the low percentage of women in engineering. "A critical step in attracting more women to engineering is to accept women as they are and to be excited about how the engineering profession might be different if it were more gender balanced," he says.
From Purdue University News
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