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MIT's engineering department heads are now predominantly female

For the first time in the history of the university, the majority of engineering department heads at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are women.

The university recently reported that, of the eight department head positions within MIT's School of Engineering, five are now occupied by female faculty members. Those faculty members include Asu Ozdalgar, head of MITEECS, or Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Paula Hammond, head of MITChemE, or Chemical Engineering; Anne White, head of Nuclear Science and Engineering; Angela Belcher, head of MITDeptofBE, or the Department of Biological Engineering; and Evelyn Wang, head of MITMechE, or Mechanical Engineering.

Because engineering is a predominantly male-led profession, MIT’s news is significant in light of current worldwide efforts to engage women and girls in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

One way to encourage women and girls to pursue opportunities in STEM fields, according to experts, is to offer them female role models doing work within those fields, as in the case with MIT's appointment of mostly female department heads in its engineering school. According to one study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Arkansas, girls with at least one parent working in the STEM field are more likely to enroll in college degree programs such as math, computer science, engineering and architecture.

Among the efforts to attract women and girls to STEM fields are STEM-themed toys and dolls geared toward young girls and the chance to earn Girl Scout badges in coding, engineering and other STEM-related topics. These efforts are in addition to a number of initiatives being launched all over the world including the "If/Then" initiative launched on behalf of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, which funds science projects and research. The recently announced initiative has earmarked $25 million toward inspiring young girls to pursue careers in STEM.



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