Christian Engineering Education Conference

Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23-25, 2004

Engineering Vocations for Women?

Gayle E. Ermer
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI

Despite small increases in the percentages of women students over the last twenty years, women are still significantly under-represented in engineering. In other professions, for example medicine and law, the number of female students has increased to the point where it equals the number of males. In engineering, the percentage of female students entering the field has leveled off at something less than 20%. This paper will address the extent to which women are under-represented in various engineering disciplines both nationally and at Christian colleges. Three reasons why Christians should be concerned about this problem will be discussed. The first is the Christian concept of vocation, which views all Christians (male and female) as being called to serve our neighbors with the gifts God has given us. There is little evidence that women lack the gifts necessary to be good engineers. Biblical support can be provided for women having to freedom to use those gifts in a professional calling. The second reason includes fairness of opportunity for women to participate in a challenging and lucrative profession. The third reason is the requirement for enough engineers to keep our society functioning. Several reasons for the under-representation of females in engineering will be explored in order to identify the barriers which prevent young women from choosing engineering as a career and from completing an undergraduate engineering degree. These barriers appear very early in the educational experience of young girls and extend through college and into industry. The paper will present various ways to overcome these barriers in order to recruit and retain more female engineering students. These will include suggestions for individuals, for churches, and for educational institutions which will allow the gifts of creativity, analytical ability, and problem solving (among others) bestowed by God on the female half of the population to be better used for promotion of his kingdom here on earth.

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