The Atlantic

How Women Mentors Make a Difference in Engineering

They act as a “social vaccine” that protects female students against negative stereotypes and gives them a sense of belonging.
Source: Jose Manuel Ribeiro / Reuters

For some women, enrolling in an engineering course is like running a psychological gauntlet. If they dodge overt problems like sexual harassment, sexist jokes, or poor treatment from professors, they often still have to evade subtler obstacles like the implicit tendency to see engineering as a male discipline. It’s no wonder women in the U.S. hold just 13 to 22 percent of the doctorates in engineering, compared to an already-low 33 percent in the sciences as a whole.

Nilanjana Dasgupta, from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, thinks that mentors—people who can give advice, share experiences, or make social connections—can dismantle the gauntlet, and help young women to find their place

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