Gender disparity in engineering as a function of physics enrollment and its implications for civil engineering

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Despite tremendous advances by women in the natural and applied sciences, where in selective fields women have surpassed men in the earning of doctoral degrees for more nearly 20 years, female enrollment levels in engineering continue to be a fraction of male enrollment. Gender disparities of more than 60% persist in undergraduate engineering enrollments and have recently worsened. As American female civil engineering enrollment has been flat for over 25 years, efforts must be taken to understand this stasis. This paper focuses primarily on secondary education preparation in terms of both attitudes toward and enrollment levels in preengineering courses such as calculus, chemistry, and physics. Additional consideration is given to enrollment and achievement in advanced placement courses, as reflected in national examination rates. This paper concludes that secondary school participation and achievement in physics courses is a critical differential factor as one explanatory element of female engineering enrollment levels and provides specific recommendations as to how to increase interest, enrollment, and achievement in physics, including the segregation of entry-level engineering courses based on previous experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-101
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


  • Engineering education
  • Mathematics
  • Undergraduate study
  • Women
  • Workplace diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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