Engineering Faculty Sets Record for Gender Diversity

Thursday, September 08, 2016
RHIT New Faculty Women 2016 14394

New Female Faculty: The 2016-17 faculty roster includes new professors (from left) Marissa Tousley, chemical engineering; Megan Heyman, mathematics; Amanda Stouder, computer science and software engineering; Rebecca Bercich, mechanical engineering; and Sarah Wilson, chemistry and biochemistry. Absent from the photo is Anne Houtman, vice president for academic affairs and biology professor.

Nationally, women are a distinct minority among engineering, tenure-track faculty, accounting for just 15.7 percent of this sector in 2015. Efforts to alter that picture are bearing fruit at Rose-Hulman, which has set new records this year, exceeding the national average. Females now account for 20 percent of Rose-Hulman's tenured and tenure-track engineering faculty.

"We want our faculty to reflect the changing workplace demographics nationally," says Anne Houtman, who joined Rose-Hulman this year as vice president for academic affairs.

At the same time, women this year make up a record 25 percent of Rose-Hulman's student body, enhanced by a record 166 first-year female students. Those numbers have been steadily increasing each year since the institute began admitting women in 1995.

"Increasing the diversity (in all of its forms) in the classroom increases the diversity of perspectives and life experiences that the members of that learning community bring to each other," says Associate Dean of Learning and Technology Kay C Dee, who also serves as interim head of the Department of Biology and Biomedical Engineering. Fifty percent of that department's tenured or tenure-track faculty members are female (5 of 10). The national average for tenured/tenure-track biomedical engineering faculty was 22 percent last year.

The Department of Chemical Engineering has a 45 percent tenured/tenured track female faculty roster (5 of 11), which is higher than the 18.8 percent national average for 2015.

Diversity among the institute's faculty has increased dramatically since 2001, when the American Society for Engineering Education's annual Profiles of Engineering & Engineering Technology Colleges recorded seven females among the tenured/tenure track 64 engineering professors.