Diversity in Chemical engineering education: Status and perspectives

Cheryl A. Bodnar, Arthur Felse, Karen A. High, Jason M. Keith, Adrienne Minerick, Ann Saterbak, Jennifer Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


For several years now, there has been a call for a more diverse workforce within engineering. In 1998, the National Academy of Engineering published a report titled "Diversity in Engineering" that described how the current state of the engineering workforce was not representative of the population of the United States. The report went on to outline that without representation of under-represented minorities, women as well as individual diversity, the solutions to engineering problems could suffer from a lack of input from individuals with different life experiences.1Sixteen years later we find ourselves not significantly ahead of where we were at the time the report was issued. Recently, the National Science Foundation's biennial report on "Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering" was published which showed that the engineering and scientific workforce is still made up of 51% white males2despite continued efforts on the part of academic institutions, professional organizations and other stakeholders to address this issue. As part of the ASEE's "Year of Action on Diversity", the Chemical Engineering division assembled a committee to perform a review of the state of diversity within its division and to identify opportunities where improvements could be made and a plan for accomplishing these goals. The diversity committee performed preliminary analysis of the Chemical Engineering division's membership information and compared it against diversity data for engineering faculty and the overall engineering workforce. Chemical engineering divisions' membership information was obtained from ASEE's membership unit, data on diversity in engineering workforce was extracted from NSF's workforce data archive2, and data on diversity in engineering faculty was extracted from ASEE's Engineering by the Numbers document.3 It was found that gender diversity in the division exceeded that of both doctoral level professionals and chemical engineering faculty but still fell short of the general working population. Diversity of underrepresented minorities within the division was at similar levels to those within doctoral level professions and chemical engineering faculty except for the Asian/Pacific Islander group which was found to be underrepresented in the division. Gender diversity among doctoral students in chemical engineering is significantly low, though gender diversity at the bachelor's level is more favorable than in other engineering disciplines. There appears to be a bottleneck in translating the favorable gender diversity at the bachelor's level to doctoral level students. In an effort to inform the division of the current status of diversity and provide a forum for change to occur, the division will host a diversity panel with panelists from different career stages that can share their experiences and perspectives on diversity. The panelists were each provided a survey with open-ended questions in order to obtain their perspectives on diversity within the field of chemical engineering and what needs to be done in order to improve upon it. Themes relating to better support structures, training on implicit bias and broadening the discussion beyond individuals that fall into under-represented categories to include the division as a whole were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Diversity in Chemical engineering education: Status and perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this