Local universities in Ohio are welcoming slightly more female engineering students this year–but some college administrators say high profile displays of sexism in the industry, such as Google’s recent controversy surrounding a memo questioning women in tech, are deterring women from choosing the major.

Approximately 28 percent of the University of Dayton’s incoming class of engineering students is female — a record increase for the university. About 22 percent of Miami University’s College of Engineering and Computing freshmen class is female, while the University of Cincinnati welcomed about 20 percent — 235 women out of 1,174 students — to their freshmen class.

“It’s a very small growth,” said Marek Dollár, dean of Miami University’s College of Engineering and Computing. “We’re trying to change this reality. We are implementing a new plan aimed at increasing the percentage of female students to 30 percent by 2020.”

Overall, about 20 percent of engineering students at Wright State University are women and only 12 percent are women engineering students at Cedarville University, the highest in each school’s history. Some college officials say enrollment isn’t increasing at higher rates because of the small pool of female candidates — an issue fueled by gender stereotypes and a failure to recruit female students in K-12.

Kirsten Simpson, a third-year industrial engineering student at the University of Dayton, said people see her painted pink nails and cannot believe she is an engineer. But Simpson is exactly the kind of engineer companies want to hire more of as firms attempt to diversify the engineers in their ranks — forcing area universities to innovate.

(Next page: Forming new ideas about who an engineer “is”)

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