New data from the American Society for Engineering Education shows that the percentage of bachelor’s degrees in engineering going to women has declined steadily over the past five years. In 2002, just over 20 percent of degrees went to women. In 2007, the number dropped to 18 percent. Deborah Besser heads an outreach program for the University of Kentucky’s engineering school. She says women engineers might face difficulties balancing the demands of the job and a family. But some companies may offer women more flexibility than others.
“We’ve certainly seen that women tend to leave engineering before they hit their 40s. But those industries that are looking for quality people and are attuned to work-family balance issues are more open to keeping and retaining women at a higher rate,” says Besser.
The engineering degree data appeared just after researchers from the University of Wisconsin and University of California announced the results of a study of math scores from 10 states, including Kentucky. They reported hardly any difference between girls’ and boys’ scores on math tests.