Women in Engineering and the New Engineering Program at Sweet Briar College

Women in Engineering and the New Engineering Program at Sweet Briar College

In most professional fields, such as medicine and law, there are equal numbers of men and women involved in the work place. For some reason, however, this is not true with engineering.

While it is true that women have come a long way (20 percent of the professionals in engineering were women in the 1990s compared to roughly 2 percent in the 1970s and 1980s), there still is much to be done to reach the 50-percent gender balance that exists in other professional fields. And despite large efforts to effect change, the fraction of women in engineering has remained at about 20 percent for the past 10 years.

One of the biggest problems in moving toward more women engineers seems to be that qualified female students in middle school and high school are opting out of technical careers without really understanding what they are giving up. Few students have an understanding of how broad the engineering field has become, how varied career opportunities are, and how rewarding these jobs can be.

Partly in response to this problem, and with significant funding from the National Science Foundation, Sweet Briar College built on its strength in the sciences and initiated an engineering program. Sweet Briar is distinguished by being one of only two women's colleges in the country to have an engineering program. This year marks the second year that students have been received into the program.

The engineering program at Sweet Briar has two engineering tracks. One is a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in engineering science; the second is a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in integrated engineering and management.

The B.S. degree is a general engineering program designed to be accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Association, ABET (a program cannot seek accreditation until it has graduated its first class, but our program has been designed following each ABET guideline and we have every confidence that it will be accredited at the first possible opportunity). The B.A. degree is designed to train graduates to be the bridge between business and technology. Both degree programs have attracted significant interest from students and area engineering companies interested in hiring our students as interns and as engineers following their graduation.

The Sweet Briar Engineering Program can be characterized by the following:

  • Very small class sizes.
  • Hands-on curriculum.
  • A focus on design projects that reach out into the community to help people.
  • Highly paid internships with local partners.
  • Being able to take a variety of courses outside engineering.
  • Being able to craft your own course of study to include other disciplines.
  • International experiences that are part of the program.
  • A focus on sustainability, and environmental consciousness.

For women who enjoy math and/or physics, a career in engineering could be wonderfully fulfilling and Sweet Briar College is prepared to help you pioneer a difference in the world.

Contact Autum Fish, Assistant Director of Admissions, (434) 381-6142, admissions@sbc.edu Mention your status as a Ventures Scholar!

Dr. Jim Durand
Associate Professor of Engineering
Sweet Briar College



courtesy of Saint Michael's College
© 2006 Ventures In Education, Inc.