With a new semester starting, it’s only apropos to mention the back and forth I’ve been having about the Principles and Practices Engineering Exam, which probably seems like a pretty arcane topic…until two Kansas State academics noted that women have a lower first-time pass rate than men do.
That occasioned an article by Toni Airaksinen of Campus Reform on the subject. One of the suggestions of the academics was that the exam itself might be biased against women. I found this difficult to believe and wrote a response to it on my vulcanhammer.net blog/site, which concerns itself with engineering topics. While not directly attacking the conclusions, I expressed the opinion that one reason for the disparity may be in the timing of the exam, which is very problematic for reasons beyond this issue and whose fix is an ongoing effort of societies which are involved in this process.
My response was featured in a follow-up article by Airaksinen on the topic, which also includes a response from NCEES (who actually write this exam,) who inform us that they screen the questions for bias. Having prepared engineering tests for a number of years, I have no idea how one screens exam questions for bias against women, but my female students have done pretty well over the years taking my tests.
Since the 1960’s engineering has suffered attacks from the various movements that exploded during that era, some of which challenged the basic good of technological progress. The profession has made a major effort to address these objections, but with the “Running Rusty” mentality in the SJW movement, that’s not easy for anyone. Our society needs to address the reality that, to survive in the world we live in, we need to shift to STEM as the centrepiece of our educational system rather than the appendage. If that happened I believe we’d see women as a larger part of our profession, and that would be a good thing. There are signs of progress but we’ve got a long way to go.