The book: In the 1950s, women made up less than one percent of students in American engineering programs. By 2010, that number had skyrocketed — women were earning 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees and almost 22 percent of doctorates in the field. Amy Sue Bix ’87 explores how the few women who did enter engineering overcame gender biases before World War II, when wartime needs channeled women into defense work. Through case studies of postwar engineering coeducation at Georgia Tech, Caltech, and MIT, Bix discusses the various stereotypes women faced: They would waste their education, they wouldn’t be good at engineering, and they must be unfeminine to be interested in science.
The author: Amy Sue Bix ’87 is an associate professor of history at Iowa State University, where she also is director of the Center for Historical Studies of Technology and Science.
Opening lines: “Decades before major American universities began welcoming significant numbers of women into their technical programs in the late 20th century, a handful of women appeared, registering a unique presence in the field. Like men of the late 1800s and early 1900s, a rare group of women during that same era simply worked their way into engineering through observation, persistence, and the happenstance of being in the right place at the right time.”
Review: Maria Klawe, who is president of Harvey Mudd College and former dean of Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, wrote in Science, “Amy Sue Bix offers a fascinating account of how women’s enrollment in American undergraduate engineering programs gradually rose and of the many challenges women encountered as students and then professionals. . . . As someone who has been the ‘first female to hold my position’ for more than 25 years, I appreciate the level of care and detail that Bix invests in Girls Coming to Tech!Despite the topic being an area of intense interest for me, I learned a great deal from her account.”