The world faces ever-increasing challenges, and engineering holds the key to the solution of many of them. But the nature of the challenges is such that they cannot be solved by the same kinds of minds that created them. Fortunately, the fields of engineering are ripe for a reformation that could lead to genuine change. Engineering education has opened up new horizons for interdisciplinary thinking, but more than a diversity of disciplines is not only necessary, but keenly wanting.
Gender and ethnic diversity in engineering has faced challenges over the last 50 years, with undergraduate engineering programs averaging about 18 percent female and less than 10 percent African American/Native American/Latinx over much of that time. Women and minorities in engineering, recruitment and retention, have been the subject of research for nearly as long. In fact, we know what to do to increase the percentage of women engaging in engineering. We have some pretty good ideas about what we need to do to change our field and ourselves so that we are welcoming to people of different ethnicities. What we need to do now is find ways to get people to convert the research to actual practice. Starting in pre-kindergarten, in both formal and informal education, and continuing to and through university programs, educators must embrace the techniques that our own research has shown us are effective.
As a teaching associate professor of engineering and education, director of Women in Engineering and director of The Engineering Place for K-12 Outreach as North Carolina State University, Dr. Laura Bottomley has engaged in teaching in every grade K-20. At each of these levels, in and outside of class, she has made it a practice to use research-based practices aimed at encouraging gender diversity. As an example, engineering summer camps under her tutelage have between 35 and 50 percent females and 30 to 40 percent underrepresented minorities, and the incoming engineering class has risen in its percentage of women to 28 percent with no change in admission processes.