[ skip to content ]


Responding to a National Science Foundation report that women are underrepresented in science and engineering, Old Dominion University's College of Engineering and Technology will begin a new initiative aimed at the education, recruitment and retention of female students from elementary school through college. The university will launch this ambitious effort April 21 with "Womengineers Day."

"In order for our country to have the quantity and quality of engineers that will be required to maintain our competitiveness in the global marketplace, it is imperative that we reach out to groups that traditionally have been underrepresented in engineering," said William Swart, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology.

According to the NSF report to Congress, "Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering," women traditionally have not been fully represented in engineering. Adding to the problem, Swart said, is that approximately 50 percent of college students majoring in engineering and science drop out of the programs.

"Old Dominion's College of Engineering is one of the most diverse in the state - nearly half of our student body is from underrepresented groups. But of this number, only 15 percent are women. And while that's better than the national average, it represents a substantial opportunity for us to increase the eventual pool of female engineers," Swart noted.

The college's initiative will include the announcement of several new scholarships for female engineering students, including two from John Deere Corp., and the launch of a new bachelor's degree concentration in systems engineering, a field that traditionally draws the most women.

Additionally, Old Dominion has submitted a grant proposal to the NSF to create a summer institute for students and teachers addressing issues affecting women in engineering.

The initiative officially kicks off with "Womengineers Day," an encompassing event that will provide information, support systems, networking opportunities, scholarship and financial aid information, and panel discussions on issues facing women in engineering. Womengineers Day is designed for students, teachers of future engineers and professional engineers.

To coordinate the event, the college organized a council of representatives from engineering and women's organizations, engineering firms and businesses, area public schools and university administrators and faculty. Co-chairs are Karen L. Moran, vice president of the National Society of Professional Engineers, and Becky Stewart, director of ship repair at Newport News Shipbuilding.

"We continue to be challenged in recruiting girls and women into the engineering profession, and retaining them after they enter the workplace," Moran noted. "We need to be proactive in creating an appreciation among girls and young women of the opportunities available to them, of their ability to be successful in engineering, and of the diverse perspective they can bring to the profession. That's what Womengineers is about."

Stewart agreed. "There are so many exciting opportunities today across a variety of industries for women and minority engineers. Getting out good information about scholastic requirements, career opportunities, issues and support systems is critical if we expect to improve enrollment and retention of these key student groups."

The April 21 event, which will be held on Old Dominion's Norfolk, Va., campus, will be highlighted by a keynote address by Rear Adm. Kathleen K. Paige, chief engineer and assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. The talk will be held at noon and includes a free lunch.

Other programs include:

"Why Aren't There More Womengineers?" - A panel discussion that will address the challenges women face in engineering and strategies for overcoming these barriers. 9:45-10:30 a.m.

"The Engineering Career Experience" - A panel discussion by female engineers describing their career paths and experiences. 9:45-10:45 a.m.

"Web Resources Workshop" - An overview of Internet resources available to women and minorities interested in engineering careers. 9:45-11:45 a.m.

"High School Teachers Workshop" - A panel discussion addressing the differences in men and women's learning styles. 9:45-11 a.m.

"College Faculty Workshop" - A panel discussion of learning styles and support systems. 11-11:45 a.m.

"Breaking Away from the Stereotypical Engineer" - A lecture on personality types in engineering, career decision making and choosing an employer. 10:30-11:45 a.m.

"Retention in Engineering" - A panel discussion featuring students and successful young engineering professionals. 1:45-2:45 p.m.

"Career Opportunities Link" - A networking opportunity with recruiters and representatives from professional societies. 1:45-2:45 p.m.

"Womengineers Day," sponsored in part by WHRO, is free and open to the public. Elementary and high school teachers can receive recertification points for attending. Reservations are requested and can be made on the "Womengineers" Web site, web.odu.edu/engr/womengineers. For more information, visit the Web site or call 757-683-3789.

This article was posted on: March 15, 2001

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.