Vanderbilt aiming to add more female engineering students

October 18, 2013

Vanderbilt School of Engineering is trying to draw more women.

The school brags a female population of 32 percent among undergraduates, which is above the national average of 18.4 percent as of 2011, according to the American Society for Engineering Education. Among graduate students at the engineering school, 28 percent are women, compared to 22.6 percent nationally. Women made up 59 percent of graduate schools overall in 2011, according to the Council of Graduate Schools.

While both of Vanderbilt’s engineering enrollment numbers are better than the averages, which helps the school further attract more women, it is not enough, said Chris Rowe, director of communications for the engineering school.

“Obviously, we really want to get to parity,” he said. “That’s a challenge for us.”

Part of the challenge, especially in the graduate school, is that companies are hiring graduates with lucrative salaries and the pool of women pursuing graduate level work becomes smaller as many decide to take those well-paying jobs rather than go after another degree, he said.

As a result, the school actively seeks to add to its female percentage, for example, by going to conferences for women interested in engineering. A more diverse population means more opportunities for women, but also a better quality program for all students, Rowe said.“In order to get better, more robust, more creative designs and to solve more complex and creative problems you have to have more, different kinds of people around,” he said.