STEM majors look to increase female presence

Olivia Olbrych, Contributing Writer

Only 23 percent of students at UNH’s College of Engineering and Physical Science (CEPS) are female, but many students and faculty are committed to increasing gender diversity in CEPS programs.

Community outreach and mentorship programs are increasingly popular ways to recruit and retain females in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, specifically engineering. According to UNH CEPS professors, students, both male and female, might not have an opportunity to be exposed to what engineering actually entails until it is time to apply for college. Furthermore, women are more likely to choose a career path where they have been able look up to another successful female in that field. If a young woman applying for college has never seen another female engineer, she is less likely than her male peers to apply for an engineering program.

“We make sure to cultivate strong female role models,” department chair and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Erin Bell said. Bell explained how she has witnessed increasing gender diversity in her disciplines of engineering, saying that if there was another woman in her classes as an undergrad, it was a big deal.

Some current female engineering students can relate to that idea.

“I was the only girl that I knew of who was going to be an engineering major in college,” said sophomore civil engineering major Allison Christie.

Currently at UNH, the department of environmental engineering has 51 percent females and the department of civil engineering has 21 percent females. Civil and environmental engineering also has 35 percent female faculty, making it one of the highest ratios of male to female engineering faculty in the nation. 

However other disciplines of engineering have not been as successful in recruiting and retaining females in their programs. The makeup of the electrical and computer…

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