UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering has seen a 28 percent increase in the number of female students admitted for the 2018–19 academic year, according to the college’s admissions statistics.
Female engineering students have faced difficulty entering the male-dominated college, in which many female students have reported experiencing either subtle or direct gender bias. Compared to 2017, during which women constituted 25 percent of freshmen and 19 percent of transfers, this year, women made up 32 percent of incoming freshmen and 26 percent of transfers.
“It’s wonderful to see these numbers going up, but they’re still not where we would like them to be,” said Philip Kaminsky, executive associate dean of the College of Engineering. “We want Berkeley to be a welcoming and supportive place and want to demonstrate that engineering is a profession for all.”
Oscar Dubón, a former associate dean for equity and inclusion and student affairs in the College of Engineering who currently serves as campus’s vice chancellor of equity and inclusion, said in a previous interview with The Daily Californian that combating gender bias in the college is difficult because of cultural differences and gender imbalances among different departments.
The College of Engineering has implemented multiple strategies to increase the number of female engineering students in recent years. Four strategies in particular — reaching out to middle school students, making work more relevant to societal needs, offering hands-on experience and building community — are used to increase female representation, according to a 2015 post by former dean of the College of Engineering Shankar Sastry on the college’s website.
“Increasing the representation of women in engineering is a shared pursuit among educators and the business sector nationwide,” Sastry said in the post. “Here in Berkeley Engineering, we are moving beyond good intentions with proven strategies for attracting more women to the field, sustaining their interest and fostering their leadership.”
Kaminsky said the UC Berkeley Girls in Engineering program is an example of the outreach that has helped increase the number of women applying to the college. The campus started the program in summer 2014 as a means for girls in middle school to learn about engineering. The program accepts students from across the Bay Area, and all of the workshops are run by women, a majority of whom are UC Berkeley students.
The reputation that UC Berkeley is not supportive of students does not reflect current reality, according to Kaminsky, who said in an email that there are programs designed to create a supportive environment, including the campus Pre-Engineering Program, study groups and leadership opportunities.
“We’ve been working over the past 10 years to improve the climate in the college,” Kaminsky said. “Berkeley doesn’t always have a reputation for being a supportive campus, and I don’t think that’s fair for the campus, or the students, or the faculty.”