Increasing Participation of Women and Underrepresented Minorities in Engineering


One-page Introduction


  • Inclusive Learning Communities: Lessons from Foundation Coalition Experiences
  • Retention of Undergraduate Students in Engineering

Related Links

Diversity Insitute, Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning: The Diversity Institute has compiled several useful resources for creating more inclusive learning environments. These include:

  • Resource Book: The resource book contains articles that emphasize: awareness of student demographics, student learning styles and preferences, strong communication with all students, effective instructional methods, and effective assessment of one's teaching. [PDF]
  • Case Book: The case book explores actual situations and ways to improve inclusivity. [PDF]
  • Literature Review: The annotated literature provides access to numerous articles on: inclusive teaching practices and their impact on students, diversity in the classroom, classroom climate, and the profile of underrepresented students pursuing STEM majors. [PDF]

Assessing Women in Engineering (AWE) is a NSF-supported project, which offers surveys for typical engineering outreach activities and for longitudinal assessment of self efficacy. Designed to enhance the assessment, evaluation and development of recruitment and activities targeting girls and women, AWE provides a comprehensive downloadable suite of tools including exportable assessment survey instruments, literature resources, and capacity building tools.

Research Foundations for Improving the Representation of Women in the Information Technology Workforce: NSF sponsored a virtual workshop that explored research issues underlying the underrepresentation of women in Information Technology.

Achieving Gender Equity in Science Classrooms: A Guide for Faculty : In this handbook we describe the aspects of culture that researchers believe contribute to attrition from SME majors, and we give concrete suggestions for addressing each of these issues. If implemented, these changes may prevent very capable students from leaving the sciences and may also attract students initially uninvolved in the sciences. We hope that this handbook will help faculty members become more aware of the issues that affect women in science and will provide them with ideas on how to address these issues in their own classrooms.

Integrated Gender Equity and Reform (InGEAR): This is a compilation of curriculum materials that promotes excellence and equity in mathematics, science, and engineering instruction. This Web site is being developed as part of a multiuniversity project titled Integrating Gender Equity and Reform (InGEAR). To learn more about InGEAR, visit the InGEAR Home Page.

Women in Engineering Program Advocates Network (WEPAN) The WEPAN site offers an comprehensive indexed bibliography of over 1,500 articles and research on women in engineering and the sciences. The site will also provide Making the Connection, hands-on activities to introduce students in grades 3-12 to enginering. The activities will be a series of 3 modules, a presenter's guide, and a follow-up newsletter will be developed by experts for 5 educational levels including: middle elementary, upper elementary, middle school, early high school and late high school.

Student Organizations

American Indian Science & Engineering Society
National Society of Black Engineers
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
Society of Women Engineers


Increase the diversity of the engineering education learning environment by attracting a larger percentage of women and underrepresented ethnic minorities into the study of engineering and retaining them through graduation.


A diverse student body can be defined as one that shows variety in its gender and racial or ethnic composition and resembles the population as a whole. One result of having a more representative student body is a better sense of community and hence a better learning environment for students.

Experience in a diverse student community makes available to students a wider variety of experiences as they interact with students whose gender and cultures differ from their own. Seeing different ways to identify, define, assess, and solve problems provides a useful learning environment for students as they progress through the engineering curriculum. If a larger number and greater variety of perspectives are brought to bear in discovering, defining, and solving problems, solutions are more creative. Successfully addressing team maintenance and process problems in groups with diverse members helps students gain useful abilities on conflict resolution, abilities increasingly sought by industry. Today's graduates will be working in a fiercely competitive world market that is multicultural and globally oriented. Providing experiences in gender, cultural, or ethnic diversity will directly benefit our students, who are and will continue to be living in a diverse environment.

There are close relationships between this key component and others. For example, pre-college women prefer cooperative learning strategies, and the role of pedagogy in retention, especially as it relates to women and minorities, has been documented.

Gender Equity

Virginia Valian, Professor of Pyschology and Linguistics at Hunter College, has synthesized research on gender equity into a framework based on two ideas. The first idea is gender schemas, in which schemas are sets of assumptions that each individual has accumulated through experience. Gender schemas are sets of assumptions connected with gender. Gender schemas may lead to differences in evaluations of women and men in different roles. The second idea is that large differences can be accumulations of small individual differences. Together, gender schemas and accumulations of differences, can, Dr. Valian argues account for the lack of women on leadership roles in academia, business, law, and other professions.

Virginia Valian has written seven short pieces about gender equity. The pieces are frequently updated, so check back often.

Dr. Valian has also prepared a set of Tutorials for Change: Gender Schemas and Science Careers.

Foundation Coalition Publications

Shawna Fletcher, Dana C. Newell, Leyla D. Newton, and Mary R. Anderson-Rowland
Women in Applied Science and Engineering Program

Mary McCartney and Mary Anderson-Rowland
Building a Pipeline of Future College Engineering Students

Maria A. Reyes, Mary R. Anderson-Rowland, and Mary Ann McCartney
Freshman Introductory Engineering Seminar Course: Coupled with Bridge Program Equals Academic Success and Retention

Shawna Fletcher, Mary R. Anderson-Rowland, and Stephanie Blaisdell
Industry Involvement in the Women in Applied Science and Engineering (WISE) Recruiting and Retention Programs

Karan Watson and Mary R. Anderson-Rowland
Interfaces Between the Foundation Coalition Integrated Curriculum and Programs for Honors, Minority, Women, and Transfer Students

Mary McCartney, Maria Reyes, and Mary Anderson-Rowland
Internal and External Challenges for Minority Engineering Programs

Mary Anderson-Rowland, Maria Reyes, and Mary Ann McCartney
MEP Summer Bridge Program: Mathematics Assessment Strategies

Stephanie Blaisdell, Angela Middleton, and Mary Anderson-Rowland
Re-engineering Engineering Education to Retain Women

Mary Aleta White, Stephanie Blaisdell, and Mary R. Anderson-Rowland
Recruiting Women into Engineering Graduate Programs

Stephanie L. Blaisdell, Rebecca J. Dozier, and Mary R. Anderson-Rowland
Teaching and Learning in an Era of Equality: An Engineering Program for Middle School Girls

Mary White, Stephanie Blaisdell, and Mary Anderson-Rowland
Women in Engineering Scholars Program

Stephanie Blaisdell, Russell Jones, and Constantine Andreyev
An Interactive CD ROM to Sensitize Engineering Students to Diversity Issues

Stephanie Blaisdell
Predictors of Women's Entry into Engineering:  Why Academic Preparation is Not Sufficient

Stephanie L. Blaisdell, Rebecca J. Dozier, and Mary R. Anderson-Rowland
Teaching and Learning in an Era of Equality: An Engineering Program for Middle School Girls

Mary White, Stephanie Blaisdell, and Mary Anderson-Rowland
Women in Engineering Scholars Program

 James M. Graham, Rita Caso, and Jeanne Rierson
The Effect of the Texas A&M University System AMP on the Success of Minority Undergraduates in Engineering: A Multiple-Outcome Analysis

Karen Frair and Karen Watson 
The NSF Foundation Coalition: Curriculum Change and Underrepresented Groups

Antonio Garcia, Gary Keller, Albert McHenry, and Fred Begay
Enhancing Underrepresented Student Opportunities Through Faculty Mentoring and Peer Interactions

References for Further Information

  1. Astin, Alexander, Achieving Educational Excellence, 1985, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.
  2. Langley, Ann, "Between 'Paralysis by Analysis' and 'Extinction by Instinct," Sloan Management Review, vol. 36, no. 3 (Spring 1995), pp. 63–76.
  3. Waitley, Denis, Empires of the Mind: Lessons to Lead and Succeed in a Knowledge-Based World, New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1995.
  4. Manz, Charles C., and Henry P. Sims Jr., Business Without Bosses: How Self-Managing Teams Are Building High-Performing Companies, New York: John Wiley, 1993.
  5. Conner, Daryl R., Managing at the Speed of Change: How Resilient Managers Succeed and Prosper Where Others Fail, New York: Villard Books, 1995.
  6. Hamel, Gary, and C.K. Prahalad, Competing for the Future: Breakthrough Strategies for Seizing Control of Your Industry and Creating the Markets of Tomorrow, Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press, 1994.
  7. Wilson, Thomas B., Innovative Reward Systems for the Changing Workplace, New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1995.
  8. Eccles, J. 1989. "Bringing Young Women into Math and Science," in M. Crawford and M. Gentry, eds., Gender and Thought: Psychological Perspectives, New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
  9. Johnson, D.W., and R.T. Johnson, "Cooperative Learning and the Achievement and Socialization Crisis in Science and Math Classroom," in A.B. Champagne and L.E. Hornig, eds., 1987, Students and Science Learning, Washington, DC: AAAS.
  10. Kahle, J.B., ed., "Real Students Take Chemistry and Physics," in K. Tobin, J.B. Kahle, and B.J. Fraser, eds., Windows into Science Classrooms: Problems Associated with Higher-Level Cognitive Learning, 1990, New York, NY, Falmer Press.
  11. Koehler, M.S. "Classroom, Teachers and Gender Differences in Mathematics," in E. Fennema and G. Leder, eds., Mathematics and Gender, 1990, New, NY, Teachers College Press.
  12. Petterson, P.L., and E. Fennema, "Effective teaching: Student Engagement in Classroom Activities and Sex-related Differences in Learning Mathematics," 1985, American Education Research Journal, 11:309–335.
  13. Smail, B., "An attempt to move mountains: the 'girls into science and technology' GIST project," Journal of Curriculum Studies, 17:351–354.
  14. Seymour, E., and N. Hewitt, Talking About Leaving, 1997, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.
  15. Tobias, S., They're Not Dumb, They're Different: Stalking the Second Tier, 1990, Tucson, AZ, Research Corporation.

Web Resources

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2004, NSF 04-317 (Arlington, VA, 2004; updated May 2004).

The NSF site provides data on the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering education and employment. The data are organized by topic and are presented in tables, graphics, and spreadsheets for downloading.

Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering is moving toward a new concept to provide the most current information available. Rather than being a static report, the new format is a dynamic Web-based information source with data updated as they become available. The NSF site is a starting point for finding information about the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering education and employment. Its primary purpose is to serve as an information source; it offers no endorsement of or recommendations about policies or programs. National Science Foundation reporting on this topic is mandated by the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act (Public Law 96-516).

Johnson, M. J., and Sheppard, S. D. (2004). Relationships Between Engineering Student and Faculty Demographics and Stakeholders Working to Affect Change. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(2), 139-151.

Abstract: Recent data suggest that the United States is unable to meet the demand for individuals well prepared to contribute to science, mathematics, and engineering with their native workforce. Low participation rates of females and underrepresented minorities in these fields are major factors contributing to this situation. This study tracks the progress of the high school class of 1990 through the engineering pipeline and beyond, specifically focusing on the progress of female and underrepresented minority students within the class. Points along the pipeline where the participation rates of students dropped significantly are identified as critical decision points and factors contributing to students leaving at these decision points are discussed. Key stakeholder groups working with underrepresented minority and female students at these critical decision points are identified. The intent of this paper is to create a synthesized, national picture of the student and faculty who make up engineering schools in the United States, and of the stakeholder groups actively working to change this picture.