Only one out of six students in the Faculty Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science (EEMCS) in 2017 was a woman. Only Aerospace Engineering has fewer female students, only 13%. Faculties which have the highest proportion of female students are Architecture and the Built Environment and Industrial Design Engineering: 49%.
What can we do to increase the number in EEMCS, Dean John Schmitz asked during a lunch debate on diversity policy and inclusion organised by Dewis, the Delft Women in Science network. Schmitz said he has already consulted 10 female electrical engineering students to see how they are doing. According to Schmitz they say they are doing fine, but then, TU Delft researcher Felienne Hermans replied, “you can’t hear the voice of the people who don’t come.”
Another woman in the audience noted that women find mathematics and physics more appealing if they know what they can use them for. “So, show what you can do with it.” Somebody else recommended using first year students to share their experiences. “The real problem behind gender differences is that this university was made by men to teach men,” Felienne Hermans said. As an example, she mentioned that in the bachelorprogramme, “every practical assignment was to make a game”, which she asserts is more appealing to men.
Apart from that, the public image of a professor is a man, Hermans stated. “It is very hard to change that.” Although this is presented as a women’s problem, “both men and women have to change,” a woman proposed. It was suggested that something be done about the visibility of women in the Faculty. “It is important to use role models more than we do now, but it should be done at the level of 12 to 13 year old youngsters who are choosing their school track.
Dean Schmitz said he is committed to taking action.
Do you have suggestions on how to attract more female students? Let us know.
CORRECTION: Monday, 2 July 2018
Dean John Schmitz did not start a focus group (as was mentioned in the article) but just consulted a group of EE BSc female students to hear how they were doing.