This Is Why More Black Women Are Not Attending Engineering School

Taking a deep dive into how to really create more black women engineers

(Cover of Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Roadmap for Increasing African American Women in Engineering, a study by Purdue University Engineering Education graduate students and faculty: Trina Fletcher, Monique Ross DeLean, Tolbert James, Holly Monica Cardella, Allison Godwin, Jennifer DeBoer)

 

For every “hidden figure,” there is ignored potential. Ignored Potential: A Collaborative Roadmap for Increasing African American Women in Engineering is a study written by a group of engineers, which scrutinizes the roadblocks and opportunities for black women in the engineering disciplines. The study was commissioned by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN).

This study starts off with some sobering numbers. By 2020, there will be 600,000 unfulfilled engineering jobs. There are already a scant amount of African American engineering degree holders, but the number is minuscule for African American women; they account for about 25% of engineering school graduates.

Additionally, the report delves into why it is that more black women are not attending engineering school, and how the option could be made more attractive to them. It also looks into the ways black women can contribute to the engineering field based on their perspectives and life experiences.

Some key takeaways from the study:

  • “Programs for people of color and programs for women exist under the assumption that they include women of color, but African American women are often lost between the two.”
  • “The lack of visible role models in engineering, stereotype threat, biculturalism, tokenism, feelings of isolation, and pay inequities in the engineering workforce are all factors at play.”
  • “Many efforts to provide support for African American women focus on improving ‘deficits’ in students, rather than focusing on issues within the education system.”
  • “Intervention research often covers a lack of family support, poor academic preparation, and low test scores; suggestions focus on fixing what is broken about students rather than the systems in which they operate.”
  • “To truly enhance contributions from women of color, we as stakeholders must invest in them at all stages in their academic and professional careers. We must also invest in systems that value African American women and their contributions.”

You can read this insightful paper in its entirety by clicking here.