Broadening Participation: A Report on a Series of Workshops Aimed at Building Community and Increasing the Number of Women and Minorities in Engineering Design
Despite some progress in increasing the numbers of women and minorities in engineering over the past 30 years, their full participation in the discipline has yet to be achieved, particularly in engineering academia. One cause is the "leaky pipeline"; even after women and minorities choose to major in engineering, they drop out at rates higher than their counterparts along all career stages (undergraduate school, graduate school, tenure-track, etc.). Their small numbers creates isolation that has the unfortunate risks of struggle, less professional success, less sense of personal belonging, and less retention. Our hypothesis is that building a community that provides networking and support, opportunities for collaboration, and professional development, will lead to greater career success, personal fulfillment and professional happiness, retention, and greater participation/contribution from women and minorities. The authors have been conducting a series of workshops aimed at broadening participation of women and other minorities within the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Design Engineering Division (DED). This paper reports on the activities and results of the workshop series. Pre-workshop survey data indicated a clear opportunity to address the unmet needs of underrepresented groups in the ASME DED. Post-workshop survey data showed success in attendee satisfaction with feelings of inclusion and community, professional skill building, and the prospect of future workshops held by the committee. A follow-up impact assessment survey showed that the workshops have led to greater participation in DED activities, new positive connections within the DED community, and positive feelings regarding their communication/collaboration abilities, self confidence, level of comfort, feelings of inclusion, professional goals, leadership abilities, and skill sets. While these results are encouraging, the committee feels strongly that greater success in broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in engineering would be possible by sharing our strategies and successes, and learning from others with similar experience creating communities within the many engineering disciplines represented in ASEE.