Brown Calls for Use of Title IX to Increase Women Engineers

WASHINGTON -- Professor April Brown, chair of the Department of
Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Pratt School of
Engineering, urged a Senate committee Oct. 3 to apply Title IX, the
federal gender anti-discrimination law usually used in athletics, to
encourage more women to become engineers and scientists.

"The resulting pool of scientists and engineers will be larger and
more diverse, which means we as a nation will be better prepared for the
technological challenges our future will bring," Brown said in testimony
prepared for the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and
Space.

Brown said the number of women faculty members in science and
engineering must be increased to boost the number of women engineers
and scientists in the work force. Role models, she added, show young
women that they, too, can become engineers and scientists. And she said
women students seek out female faculty for advice and research
guidance.

"Many women are lost along the way if they cannot identify and relate
to a teacher for guidance toward a successful career," Brown said. Yet
she said less than 10 percent of engineering faculty members are
women and, in her field of electrical and computer engineering, which is
the most rapidly growing engineering discipline, only 7 percent of the
faculty are women.

Brown, who joined the Pratt School this year, holds a bachelor's
degree from North Carolina State University and a master's and doctorate
from Cornell University. Before moving to Duke, she was Joseph M. Pettit
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and executive assistant
to the president at Georgia Tech.

Brown was invited to testify by subcommittee Chairman Ron Wyden,
D-Ore., about how Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 might be
applied to increase the number of women engineers and scientists. She
said that although Title IX requires colleges and universities that receive
federal funding to provide equitable athletic opportunities for all students,
regardless of sex, it covers all educational programs receiving federal
assistance.

"During the past 30 years, Title IX has created tremendous changes in
athletics," Brown said in her prepared testimony. "Now is the time to use
its power for engineering and sciences, with the hope that the results will
be as dramatic."

"Universities must comply with Title IX to receive federal funding. The
government can and should do more to ensure compliance in the specific
area of educational opportunities for women in science and engineering."

"First, since graduate programs across the nation are the primary
training ground for the professoriate of the future, universities could be
required under Title IX to create more institutional graduate support
(scholarships) for women graduate students. Successful recruiting and
retention of women in graduate school creates the new faculty members
we need to attract more women undergraduates to science and
engineering."

"Second, engineering programs can and should do more to ensure
that their female faculty members -- and students -- have an equitable
share of the resources provided by the institution. Title IX can be used to
ensure that both financial aid and research support are equitably
distributed among graduate students."

"Third, university leaders must be accountable for the work
environment they steward. They can be held accountable under Title IX's
provision of continuous improvement of the environment for women, and
there are many approaches for doing that for both students and faculty
members." For faculty, she said these include better work-family policies,
including extending the period for faculty members to receive tenure, an
important factor for women desiring to have children. "For students," she
said, "these include supporting mentoring opportunities, such as Women
in Engineering programs."

"Federal funding is critical to science and engineering, and we must
ensure that women principal investigators are well represented in funding
agencies' research and education portfolios."

Brown said she was drawn to engineering because her father was an
engineer. She said she is the mother of two boys "that I hope will
someday consider becoming engineers." She said she believes the
changes she advocates "will benefit them as well as their female friends."