One of the questions I frequently get asked from prospective students and their families during Meet USC sessions is, “What’s the ratio of male to females in engineering?” It’s only then do I remember that I am, indeed, considered a minority in the engineering field. Although the Viterbi School of Engineering is about 30% women (beating out the national average of ~18%!), it definitely doesn’t seem like such a divide.
Like many of you, I was concerned as a high school girl interested in engineering that I would be outnumbered by men in college. In fact, that was a small reason why I did not want to attend my second choice school, Georgia Tech, who’s overall university ratio is about 70% men, 30% women. I liked that as a whole, USC’s student body was almost a 50/50 split.
Once I came to Viterbi, however, the idea of being a minority was really never a concern. I loved being surrounded by smart, well-rounded students, and I did not pay attention to the demographics around me. My major, Industrial & Systems Engineering, actually has one of the highest ratios of women to men within Viterbi. In my randomly assigned Senior Design Project group of 4 people, 3 of us our female!
With that said, Viterbi definitely has some amazing support programs specially aimed at female engineers. The Society of Women Engineers and our Women in Engineering (WIE for short…all female engineers are automatically part of the group!) put on fantastic networking and social events for Viterbi women. I’ve volunteered at a few of WIE’s mentoring events for high school girls interested in math, science, and engineering.
Although I do like to embrace my nerdy side and a woman in engineering (case in point, my nerd costume at one of my sorority’s Invite events…I decorated my shirt with equations from my ISE classes that semester and even brought my calculator out on the dancefloor), overall I’m just your average college student. I’m involved both in and out of Viterbi through research, student organizations, religious life, honors societies, and greek life. If you’re thinking about being a woman in engineering, be confident that you definitely can do it all!