Since its establishment in October 1885, the Institute has asserted itself as one of the nation’s front-running engineering and technological universities.
However, despite Tech’s promising academic beginnings, the Institute limited enrollment to a particular demographic — men.
According to a “Women at Tech Timeline” article published by the Institute, the student body continued to include only male students until 1952, when the Board of Regents voted 7 to 5 to admit women to a limited number of programs. In order to be accepted, women had to enroll in majors or programs not offered elsewhere.
No further advancements for student inclusivity occurred until 1961, when the first Black students enrolled at Tech, and in 1968, when women could apply for all educational programs.
In reference to staff, the first female faculty member, Mary Katherine Cabell, joined
the Institute in 1960.
Even today, female and male enrollment number discrepancies are evident on campus.
Per the 2022 Institutional Research and Planning Fact Book, as of this past fall, 30,704 men and 14,592 women are enrolled at Tech. This makes for over twice as many men enrolled at Tech compared to women.
This ratio is particularly noticeable in STEM-oriented areas of study like the College of Engineering (COE), where there are 5,114 men and 2,799 women, and the College of Computing, where there are 3,140 men and 1,164 women.
Rebecca Corral, a first-year BMED student, commented on her experiences in male-dominated classrooms and, even further, a male-dominated campus.
“As a BMED major, I definitely notice the difference in numbers in my major specific classes; however, I will say that, in my prerequisites and general education requirements, it is less prevalent. I find that I am a lot more intimidated in the classroom because of the little number of women around me. However, because my education has always been STEM-focused, I’ve unfortunately learned to adapt and push through,” Corral said.
She continued on to voice her wishes for a greater female presence in STEM courses. “I think that sometimes, especially in group settings, I find myself fighting to put my point across or be a contributing member of the conversation. I believe that if I were surrounded by more women, I would feel more supported and heard rather than oftentimes second-guessing myself,” Corral said.
The College of Design (COD) and Ivan Allen College (IAC) are the only colleges on campus with a higher population of women than men. The COD reports 389 women and 251 men, while the IAC reports a more drastic difference of 606 women and 369 men.
Lydia Golley, a second-year PUBP student and transfer from Georgia State University (GSU), expressed her experiences as a liberal arts major at Tech.
“To be honest, I don’t think I have noticed a difference between the number of women and men in my Public Policy classes. I think that this can be attributed to the fact that I am not a STEM major. However, when I step out of the classroom, the skew of the ratio is definitely much more
noticeable,” Golley said.
She continued to elaborate on her transfer experience.
“Transferring from Georgia State to Tech was an interesting experience because more women populate the campus there. It is flipped; here at Tech, the student body is 60% male and 40% female, whereas GSU is 40% male and 60% female. I think these percentages reflect the inequities women in STEM face,” Golley said.
To combat these inequities, it seems that the Institute is trying to create greater opportunities for women aspiring to pursue careers in STEM. For instance, Tech has established a Women in Engineering program that aims to increase the number of women pursuing engineering careers.
Furthermore, over the past few years, there has been a definite increase in the number of female applicants and admits. In the fall of last year, 20.8% of women that applied were admitted, while 13.1% of men that applied were admitted. From the 2022 Institutional
Research and Planning Fact Book, this upward trend has been consistent since at least 2018, wherein 27.2% of women that applied were admitted, while 18.0% of men that applied were admitted. On a broader scale, according to an article posted by Tech’s official news outlet in 2018, “since 2010, the share of women in the freshman class has grown from 33% to 43%, and overall enrollment of female students (both undergraduate and graduate) has grown to an all time high.”
Moreover, according to the American Society of Engineering Education, “Tech’s COE is the largest producer of engineering degrees awarded to women.”
While the Institute has made great strides in lessening the infamous “ratio”, there is certainly larger scale work to be done in integrating women
into STEM fields.
For a more in depth look at the 2022 Institutional Research and Planning Fact Book, refer to irp.gatech.edu/fact-book.