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AU News

College of Engineering: Female Engineering Students Proportionally Above National Employment Levels

March 25, 2022
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Anderson University College of Engineering majors Jaya McGill, left, and Chloe Munn work together on a robotics project. They are part of a growing trend of women entering engineering fields.

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Thirty-five percent of students in the Anderson University College of Engineering are women; That’s higher than the national average of female engineers in the workforce.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported there are nearly 13.2 million female employees in STEM roles as of 2021. Though women comprise less than a quarter of all engineers, more women are being hired than in the past. According to Glassdoor, small businesses and startups hired 13 percent more female engineers in 2021, up from a 4 percent increase the previous year. 

“Women have a huge role to play in engineering and they should be encouraged and supported to do so. Women have the capacity to excel and should be given the opportunity,” said Dr. Stephen Ojo, professor of engineering.

“As an engineer who has worked in the automotive industry, academia and national research laboratories, I have seen women playing key roles in each of these sectors,” said Dr. Ryan Karkkainen, professor of engineering. “I am happy to see our AU programs doing a great job recruiting women in engineering, which will clearly benefit the profession and society as a whole.”

“There were six females in my class out of the total 106 students in my undergraduate years,” Dr. Ojo recalls. “All six of them are actually doing well today as engineers. Imagine if we have had more? More women engineers will definitely make society a better place.”

Hannah Neff, a freshman from Fort Mill, South Carolina, wasn’t initially considering engineering. 

Originally I was thinking about going into marketing around my sophomore or early junior year of high school. I did that because I wanted to do something more creative like the digital art and design aspect. When I was taking those digital art and design classes in high school I realized it’s not what I wanted to do,” Neff said. “I always knew that I loved math and science, so I figured a good field to go into that would take both of those together would be engineering. So that’s how it really started.”

Neff feels her passion for protecting the environment is fueling an interest in environmental engineering. She hopes to work on technologies aimed at providing solutions for air or water pollution. Neff feels that Anderson’s well-rounded curriculum will help her more fully understand engineering concepts as she furthers her studies.  

“There’s definitely a lot more involvement among women in the engineering field. I feel like there’s higher accessibility for engineering programs and this kind of work for women and better opportunities. I think it’s just going to go up from here,” Neff said. 

Jaya McGill, who came to Anderson University from Waxhaw, North Carolina, has always loved math and the sciences. The more she looked into engineering, the more she felt it was the career for her.

The more I learned about it, the more I was like ‘yeah, this is my passion, this is what I want to do,’ specifically because engineering revolves more around solving problems in the world,” McGill said. “I want to make a difference in the world and do that through engineering. It was perfect that Anderson started an engineering program, because I love the school, so all the pieces kind of fell into place for me to do engineering here.”

McGill feels that she’s getting a great start, learning to program in Python and MATLAB, computer languages used in much of engineering. She’s also fascinated by mechatronics and learning more about robots. McGill wants to get into environmental engineering and is looking at computer programming and its applications to renewable energy, such as solar panels or hydroelectric power. 

Initially, McGill had misgivings about entering an engineering classroom as the only female.

“Coming to Anderson, I feel like all of those fears have been relieved. It’s incredibly inclusive to everyone. Actually there are lots of girls in our classes,” McGill said. “In the past I feel it was definitely more male-dominated, but in the future and currently, more girls are getting into engineering, which I’m really excited about.”

To other females considering engineering, McGill says, “I would really encourage them to keep pushing with it because sometimes it does get hard, but honestly I think the reward is worth it in the end.”

Through the Trojan Engineering Initiative, McGill and Neff applied to serve as mentors to incoming engineering students. 

Harley Welch of Olanta, South Carolina, enjoyed being creative with Lego blocks when she was growing up.

“Eventually as I got older I began going outside with my dad building things. We built a little coffee table out of wooden pallets. We made a fireplace out of stones,” said Welch, who has always loved building things and was inspired by her uncle, a civil engineer, to look into engineering as a career. 

A mechanical engineering major, Welch plans to enter the automotive industry in some type of design role. 

“This semester we’re building a robot, working with sensor inputs and outputs—things like that. We’re separated into groups. We’re doing robot C and VEX programming. We just plug (the programming) into the robot, write some code and it carries out the task,” Welch said. “Everybody’s helpful here at Anderson. It’s like a teamwork thing.”

The Anderson University College of Engineering provides a comprehensive engineering education that combines Anderson’s liberal arts tradition within a Christian worldview. Engineering programs pending accreditation include Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering and General Engineering.

Details can be found online at

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