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Gender gap in engineering enrollment at UCF continues to close

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There were 236 students enrolled in one of UCF’s Senior Design II engineering classes this spring, and 20 of them were women.

Makayla Bumgardner was one of them.

“I think the numbers are increasing because there’s more of a push, not only from the women already in the fields themselves but from educators and parents to get their young girls into STEM fields in the past few years,” Bumgardner, a senior aerospace engineering major, said.  

There were 8,892 undergraduate students enrolled in UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science this spring, according to the Institutional Knowledge Management’s Preliminary Spring 2018 Headcount report. That’s about 17 females for every 100 students.

But the number of undergraduate students — and women  — in the college has increased throughout the past five years.

The report says there was a 17.5 percent increase of women in engineering programs from spring 2013 to spring 2018.

The college reported 17,012 total undergraduate students in 2013 with nearly 15 percent being women. The number climbed just above 15  percent in 2014 and then sat at 16 percent in 2015 before reaching nearly 17 percent in 2016.

By 2017, women made up slightly more than 17 percent of engineering students at UCF. 

The upward trend of women engineers is expected to continue as younger generations move into the industry, said Gillian Werner, director of interns for the Engineering Leadership and Innovation Institute and a senior aerospace engineering major.

“I think younger generations are much more accepting of women working in technical fields and make a point of empowering young women to be successful in those fields,” Werner said.

Bumgardner, Herald and Werner all took the Senior Design II engineering class at UCF this spring. They made up 15 percent of the women in the class. They say they aren’t negatively impacted by the enrollment gender gap.

“I think sexism is much more prevalent in other fields as our generation of engineers tends to be more open-minded,” Werner said. “I have only ever experienced unintentional sexism in my male group mates assuming I don’t know how to use power tools when, in reality, I grew up building things regularly.”  

Johnny Rogan, a senior aerospace engineering major, said he’s noticed the ratio of men and women in his courses, adding that it’s become more evident as he progresses in his degree.

“In upper-level engineering classes, lab teams and group projects make up a big part of the coursework, and there have only been two or three courses where there has been a female in a group or team I’ve been in,” Rogan said.

Bumgardner said the lack of women in engineering became more apparent when people around the globe started speaking up about the gap between men and women. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Dec. 22, 2015, naming February 11 the Intentional Day of Women and Girls in Science. 

Although the gender gap is still noticeable, Bumgardner said the increasing representation of women in the media is causing more young girls to seek out a career in engineering.

“There’s a lot of momentum that’s been added to the movement of females in engineering, and it’s been gaining more and more favor over the past few years,” Bumgardner said. “With a push from educators and parents, along with representation in the media, I think it has tremendously helped raise the percentage of females in the field.”

Projected engineering enrollment statistics for the fall semester are unavailable, said Patricia Ramsey, director of Institutional Research for UCF’s Institutional Knowledge Management. Statistics for the upcoming summer semester would not have accurately related to the spring semester as less classes are offered.