Auburn’s campus is home to hundreds of opportunities for students to find their passions, careers and majors. However, two fields see a significantly larger amount of males than females.
Engineering has a high discrepancy between male and female students. Incoming freshman who enter the College of Engineering only have a 21 percent rate of being female, and of those who enter as a graduate students, only 23 percent are female, according to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Fact Sheet.
In mechanical engineering there is a discrepancy as large as 673 male students and only 103 female students for undergraduates, according to the Auburn University Enrollment Statistics in 2016 for the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.
The engineering department for 2016 saw a total enrollment of 3,994 male and 969 female students, according to the Auburn University Enrollment Statistics in 2016 for the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.
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A gap this large encourages the University to work toward integrating programs for females. One of these programs is the 100 Women Strong Engineering program.
“The program has a mission to recruit, retain and reward Auburn University women in engineering,” said Myra Girard, development coordinator for 100 Women Strong. “We are looking for results with any of that, seeing our numbers go up with female students and having them remain in engineering.”
Girard said there are events in place to encourage women in the field, such as a welcome event.
“During that event the dean speaks and some professors, and we have a really good keynote typically, and the students are given a chance to network with each other and get to know other people that are going to be studying what they’re studying so it creates a sense of community,” Girard said.
There is also a mentor program through 100 Women Strong, which encourages the female students to connect with women who can aid them. In addition, 100 Women Strong is able to give scholarships to students.
100 Women Strong hopes to encourage female high school students to consider engineering. E-day is one of the ways the program aims to speak with high school students.
“There is a summer engineering camp for female students, and these are high school students, and we sponsor a luncheon one day at the camp, and we have our members come in … and they have a panel and the students can ask them questions,” Girard said.
Leslie DeVoe, senior in mechanical engineering, has benefitted directly from the 100 Women Strong program through scholarship.
“That program is actually a group of women alumni who have graduated from Auburn, and they’ve come together [and have] donated to the college,” DeVoe said. “Their whole mission is to try to encourage engineering for women coming in as freshmen and then seeing them all the way through.”
DeVoe was one of the students who became interested in engineering after attending a summer camp and meeting some women from 100 Women Strong.
“Since I’ve co-oped, since I’ve worked, I was primarily the only woman in some of my different jobs, and I was scared going into those, but once I got through those rotations, I realized it really isn’t that bad,” DeVoe said. “Times have changed a lot over the past 20 years. Companies are a lot more accepting at least of women and minorities and whatnot. And it really is a level playing field.”
DeVoe said she has used engineering to narrow down her job goals.
“Through this job search, I’ve been basically looking at outside ideas,” DeVoe said. “Something that’s non-traditional engineering because what I want right now is not fitting a cookie-cutter job.”
The first female engineering student to graduate from Auburn was Maria Rogan Whitson, electrical engineering, in 1923, according to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering about history page. Women like Whitson paved the way for DeVoe to pursue her dream of mechanical engineering.
Discrepancies at Auburn can be found outside of engineering, however, and are present in the College of Business.
The pre-business program saw 1,481 male undergraduate students and only 843 female undergraduate students in 2016 while finance saw 294 undergraduate male students and 94 undergraduate female students in 2016, according to the Auburn University Enrollment Statistics in 2016 for the Harbert College of Business.
As a whole, business saw a total of 2,780 male undergraduate students and 1,594 female undergraduate students in 2016 according to the Auburn University Enrollment Statistics in 2016 for the Harbert College of Business.
Jan Moppert, director of the office of professional and career development in the Harbert College of Business, said each semester they hold a legends and leaders program at Auburn.
“[Legends and leaders] has a different topic every night, and sometimes it has a theme for all the nights in that series for the semester,” Moppert said. “The second night was information on how to break through the glass ceiling.”
Moppert has had the opportunity to work with student organizations to present projects on women also.
“One is on women and communication and how we communicate differently and how people perceive us due to that difference in communication,” Moppert said. “So we talk about ways to be a more powerful speaker, and the other one is just on empowering women in general.”
Moppert said it is important to encourage younger girls in business.
“We need to expose young women, young girls even, get to them early,” Moppert said. “We need to be doing things in the high schools and the junior highs to support how girls learn and to help them want to continue to do that.”
A new program is being implemented within the college by Melanie Roehm, vice president for development in the College of Business called Women in Business, Moppert said.
“It’s one that is being started and supported by alumni and their goal is to get it working really well and then bring it down to the student level to help encourage more students, more female students to not only pursue business but to optimize their business degrees,” Moppert said.
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