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CU Boulder becoming a top destination for women in engineering

2023 freshman class reached 41% female students
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Posted at 8:35 AM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 10:36:28-04

BOULDER, Colo — The University of Colorado Boulder said it has become a top destination in the country for young women pursuing engineering degrees.

Newly released numbers show the fall 2023 freshman class for the College of Engineering and Applied Science was 41% women. The total undergraduate class for this year is 30% women, up from 18% in 2003.

Dean Keith Molenaar said it’s a noticeable difference from when he was an undergraduate student at CU in the 1980s.

“We’ve had a goal of gender parity for more than 20 years, we're very proud that out of 167 public colleges of engineering, we're always number one or number two,” Molenaar said.

While the numbers are improving, female students are still in the minority in most engineering majors. 2023 graduate Megan Conard said she noticed the disparity from day one.

“My freshman year dorm was three floors, and the top and the bottom floor were men and the middle floor was women,” Conard said.

Aerospace major Ada Forsner said she’s one of many students who has struggled with the difficult course load, but she never considered quitting.

“I know what I love, and I really wanted to pursue what I love and push past those challenges,” Forsner said.

Both Forsner and Conard said female-focused clubs and mentoring help young women feel connected and supported. Keeping female students in their programs is critical to boosting the number of women participating in engineering fields.

“Even once they get into industry, that many women will leave industry after they've even gotten their engineering degrees,” Conard said.

Dean Molenaar said 90% of graduates from the college are employed within sixth months. Conard now works for a manufacturing company in Massachusetts, where half her team in research and development is women, bringing much needed perspective to their work

“When you have a group of people designing a product, they're designing it from how they see the world, so I think the University has to continue to push for gender parity, as well as parity in all groups,” Conard said.

The Society of Women Engineers estimates just under 17% of those employed in architecture and engineering jobs are women. The numbers vary by field, though. Fewer than 20% of the electrical and computer science majors at CU are women. But women actually outnumber men in biomedical and environmental engineering.

CU Boulder becoming a top destination for women in engineering

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