Categorized | Education

Overcoming the role of gender and race in science and technology majors during college

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 11.12.17 PMEngineering and other STEM fields have often been monopolized by the male majority. The graph to the left represents the sex composition of North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles, which is composed of the Colleges of…

  • Textiles Engineering
  • Polymer and Color Chemistry
  • Textile Technology
  • Fashion and Textile Design
  • Fashion and Textile Management

The first three majors are categorized as STEM majors while the latter two are categorized as Business and Design majors.

It is evident from this graph that the STEM majors within this college are being dominated by male students.

Additionally STEM Majors have also been segregated by race. North Carolina State University has a composition of 27% minorities. While the percentages of minorities across all majors in the College of Textiles are low, they are especially low in the engineering major.

Why don’t Women and Minorities pursue Engineering and Other STEM Fields?

Historically, women and minorities have not been well-represented in engineering majors. As a result this underrepresentation has developed into a self-perpetuating problem. If women and minority students see role models in these majors and careers, they are more likely to pursue these options.

Often, this is further complicated by a number of other factors, all of which contribute to further deter women and minority students, such as:

  • Masculine language
  • A lack of proper mentorship
  • 2 to 1 male to female language
  • Lack of prior education
  • Unwelcoming colleagues
  • A feeling of “going against the grain”

So what? Why we need more female perspectives in science and engineering

Women provide a different perspective that may not always be offered in a male-dominated field. In addition, in order to overcome discrimination, the workplace must become more diverse. This diversification can also aid in preventing group-think and help to expose management to the ideas of different cultures.

This means colleges need to to place a priority on recruiting a diverse student body, even into majors/careers not usually pursued by these groups.

For women and minorities interested in STEM careers, finding mentors and connecting with other like-minded people at school and throughout their career is vital. Most schools have a number of professional organizations and women’s groups designed to support and provide services to help women and minorities thrive in these fields.

For example, NCSU has Women in Engineering, Women in Nuclear @ NCSU, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Alpha Omega Epsilon Engineering Sorority.

Authored by NCSU students Stephen Trippe, Cori Boyce, Colin Lynch as part of their Women and Gender in Science and Technology class. 

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