Women Find a Home at Berkeley Engineering

May 2, 2009 by Dean Shankar Sastry

From Monica Tanza, a mechanical engineering senior interested in sustainable design, to Cagla Meral, a civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. student working on greener cement, women are pursuing their ambitions at Berkeley Engineering.

The representation of women in the college’s student body is slightly higher than nationwide numbers: Using 2006–07 figures, nearly 20 percent of our undergraduates are women, compared with 17.5 percent in engineering colleges nationwide; and 25 percent of our master’s and Ph.D. students are women, compared with 22 percent nationwide.

However, this is Berkeley, which never aspires to be just average. Our peer MIT awards 38 percent of its engineering bachelor’s degrees to women. As the pool of prospective engineers and scientists continues to diversify given demographic and educational trends, we must do all we can to make Berkeley Engineering an even more compelling option for women students.

As dean, I am leading a college-wide effort to attract and retain more women, working from a set of key observations:

  • We must have abundant research opportunities, with financial incentives wherever possible, for undergraduates and graduate students alike.
  • Our students must be able to connect their studies to the big problems facing society and the potential for high-impact outcomes. This helps explain why women are better represented in such fields as environmental engineering and bioengineering.
  • We must do all we can to support student groups like the Society of Women Engineers, which provides a home for leadership activities and makes the role of women even more visible in the college.

We will be challenging ourselves in the next few years to boost the number of women in the student body and prepare them—as we do with all our students—to lead technological innovation in the global economy. Please watch for updates on this topic, and feel free to share with us any insights or suggestions you may have.

S. Shankar Sastry

Dean, College of Engineering
Roy W. Carlson Professor of EECS, BioE & ME
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies

Email Dean Sastry

Upcoming Events

Spring Reception for Graduates: Monday, May 11, 5–6:30 p.m.
Join our graduating seniors for a reception at the Betty & Gordon Moore Lobby in Hearst Memorial Mining Building and welcome them to the alumni community. RSVP by May 7 by e-mailing bears@berkeley.edu.

Spring 2009 Engineering Commencement: Saturday, May 23, 8:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
The annual commencement ceremony at the Greek Theatre features a keynote address by Coleman Fung (B.S.’87 IEOR), CEO and founder of Open Link Financial, Inc., and hundreds of happy graduates.

UC Berkeley European Symposium: Thursday, May 28
Hear top Berkeley Engineering faculty speak at Siemens Corporate Headquarters in Munich for an all-day symposium. Dean Shankar Sastry, CITRIS director Paul Wright and others address the role of cutting-edge research in meeting the challenges of energy use and point-of-care health care. For more, go to http://www-bsac.eecs.berkeley.edu/events/8764300078/.