Harvey Mudd College Makes History
Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California is one of the top engineering schools in the entire country. They recently made gender equality history by awarding 56% of their Engineering degree diplomas last week to women students. This is the first time that this has been done in the field of engineering and the sciences, mostly male-dominated fields. The overall graduate ratio across all majors at Harvey Mudd College last week was 49% female to 51% male—these close numbers are encouraging for male and female students and administrators.
Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe said that she and her administration really campaigned toward encouraging a good number of women to take up STEM courses while also allowing their male students to continue to excel and develop in the field. Ms. Klawe was also the first woman to lead the college in the 60 years that Harvey Mudd has been running. She stresses that it doesn’t have to be one or the other—both men and women are relevant to the sciences.
Elizabeth Orwin, professor at the Engineering College and incoming Engineering College Chair, says that the reason why Harvey Mudd College has grown so popular in the last few years is because they accept students and faculty from both genders, giving all students role models to look up to. She also says that since Maria Klawe took over as president in 2006, they have come up with different experiential programs which help uplift their students and give them confidence that they can perform in the field.
Ms. Klawe states that this is very important to her as someone who felt very out of place during her college years when the ratio of female to male students in STEM courses was significantly bigger—while male classmates can be very nice and direct isolation of women was very rare, she says that for herself and fellow female classmates growing up in a male dominated field, they felt like they weren’t really successful or like they were simply being impostors. They felt they were playing pretend at being successful because they didn’t measure up to their role models, who were mostly male.
Ms. Klawe has held many prestigious positions throughout her career—being the former Head of Computer Science and then the Dean of Science at the University of British Columbia and after that the Dean of Engineering at Princeton University. She said that when she was appointed the President of Harvey Mudd College 8 years ago, she made a promise to herself that she would make the environment one where students of all genders would feel welcome and like they had legitimate chances at becoming successful scientists and engineers.
Harvey Mudd also has the most female professors in its faculty of all the leading engineering and science colleges throughout the United States. Ms. Orwin states that this has helped balance out the way that pupils see the STEM fields—it legitimizes the role of women in the fields of science and gives all their students a real feeling of accomplishment upon graduation. The overall gender ratio of Harvey Mudd College is also one that is rarely ever heard of when it comes to Engineering and the Sciences. While it is still mostly male populated, the figures for a more-or-less equal population of men and women studying STEM courses is promising: Harvey Mudd College is comprised of 42% women students, faculty and staff and 58% men who are enrolled, employed and teaching at the academic institution—a closer call than other leading STEM institutions.