Lack of women at Tech more than joke

The Ratio. TBS. “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”
These three phrases encompass a huge portion of the culture at Tech. The male to female ratio at Tech has been the butt end of a number of jokes for as long as women were even allowed in universities. It also goes without saying that in this day and age, Tech is still one of the few top tier public universities where the students can count the number of classes they’ve had with an equal distribution of males and females with only one hand.
This year’s freshman class, however, has shown female enrollment at its highest in history, with a 36 percent to 64 percent female to male ratio. Yet the numbers neglect to paint a full picture of the academic demographics in the freshman class.
While growth may be occurring, it is only happening within one sector of the institute. The number of female engineering and computing students has been growing at a snail’s pace. Comparatively, the Colleges of Architecture, Liberal Arts and Sciences all have seen much larger increases in their percentages of female enrollment. In particular, the percentage of undergraduate females in the College of Engineering has only fluctuated by an approximately positive 0.7 percent by each class year (going from seniors to freshmen). The College of Computing has even demonstrated a decrease of enrolled undergraduate females by 0.6 percent. As well, both sets of numbers demonstrate incredibly low standard deviations (fractional at best). This only goes to underline that female presence in these disciplines are at a stand still with no inclination of going up or down by any large means.
This begs the question, if female enrollment at Tech has been on a positive trend, then why can’t the same be said of the Colleges of Engineering and Computing?
Lack of female engineers and scientists is not just a problem that plagues Tech, but instead one reflected across the nation as a whole. In 2003, the National Science Foundation reported that only 11 percent of the engineering work force was female. Not to mention that there is a general idea of a gender gap between disciplines. As past studies have shown, engineering and the sciences are for boys, and liberal arts are for girls.
Even the film The Social Network, which details the development of Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, exemplifies the lack of female presence of the industries of engineering, computing and the sciences. In one scene that hits almost too close to home, Zuckerberg and his partner Eduardo Saverin plot to expand their creation. When their female “groupies” ask if they can contribute, they are met with a simple, “No.” Thus, the point was made. Innovation is a boy’s club.
This is not to say that the Tech administration, faculty or student body purposely acts this way concerning women in the sciences. With organizations such as the Women’s Recruitment Board and the Society of Women Engineers, I was even skeptical on whether or not discrimination in engineering existed. However, it was not until I entered the workplace when a coworker stated outright that my being “young and a woman” would “work against [me]” that I realized the gender gap was indeed a problem.
The solution may lie in parties outside of women’s recruitment organizations. There needs to be a general attitude change from the administration, faculty and male student professional/academic organizations. After all, how often does one hear a male student complaining about the Ratio, and how often does one hear about a male professional student organization actually working with female professional organizations in a truly collaborative setting? More so, according to the Georgia Tech 2007 Fact Book, only approximately 14 percent of Tech engineering faculty is female.
The institute’s faculty and administration should push themselves to find, reward and maintain relations with female faculty. Encouraging more apt and qualified female professors and researchers can be the first step in creating a positive environment for up-and-coming female engineers. As well, male students can make an effort in cultivating that positive environment in more than just a social setting but a professional setting as well.
Rather than observing and commenting that Tech has a “girl problem”, perhaps a little more effort and consideration from male students, the administration and faculty is necessary. Just because something is a “girl problem” does not mean the weight of fixing it should be doled on the targeted minority.


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