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How do we make the field of engineering more diverse?

Faculty from the Stanford School of Engineering and the Graduate School of Education say the work begins in high school and continues throughout the university experience.

A group of students representing a spectrum of diversity, visible or invisible. The students are smiling and engaged.

Diversity in engineering will be a key driver to achieving social justice and economic equality. | Photo by Christophe Wu

With engineers set to play an outsized role in 21st-century society helping to feed and shelter billions of new inhabitants, all while making up just one percent of the workforce, diversity in the profession will be a key driver to social justice and economic equality worldwide.

Moderator Anthony Kinslow II (MS ’15, PhD ’19), a lecturer in Civil and Environmental Engineering, welcomes guest speakers Sheri Sheppard, the Richard W. Weiland Professor in the School of Engineering and a mechanical engineer who spent years as one of the few female engineers in the auto industry, and anthony antonio (MS ’93), an associate professor in the GSE whose research focuses on equity in higher education.

Sheppard and antonio agree that the path to greater diversity begins in high school, introducing minority students to the wonders of engineering and imbuing the study skills that will be critical to their future success. But the work does not end by simply getting more minorities into college programs; it continues throughout the undergraduate experience through a reevaluation of the way engineering is taught now, and through retention programs that steer students to graduation and, ultimately, into leadership roles in industry.

Meanwhile, those pragmatic tactics must also be bolstered by other efforts to encourage inter-ethnic interactions that help to break down stereotypes, build diverse engineering teams and, in the end, lead to engineering outcomes that are more innovative, effective and more beneficial to all sectors of society.

Stanford Engineering’s Engineering for All explores how engineering can become more inclusive in education and in design. Watch the fullEngineering For All video series.

Books and articles mentioned in the presentation