We found that imbalance does indeed exist. Women at MIT are about half as likely as men to major in EECS, despite the fact that men and women major at about the same rate in the School of Engineering as a whole. For example, for 1991 S.B. degrees granted, Computer Science had the lowest ratio of women to men of any major at MIT with more than a few students.
The data surveyed in Chapter 1 of this report, assembled from both MIT and national sources, reveal that this pattern is distressingly typical. When measured by the adjusted ratio of women to men (the percentage of women choosing to major in the Department, versus the percentage of men choosing to major in the Department), MIT does about the same as other selective engineering schools and considerably better than selective general universities. Moreover, the imbalance in undergraduate enrollment matches (and is in fact slightly less than) the imbalance with which entering first-year men and women express interest in EECS on their applications for admission to MIT. This makes it difficult to argue that the imbalance in EECS enrollment is a result of factors that are unique to MIT.
It is not adequate, however, merely to report that comparable institutions do as badly as we do. As a national leader in EECS education, MIT should also lead in coming to grips with this imbalance, and in encouraging men and women to participate equally in electrical engineering and computer science. Chapter 2 of this report discusses the results of two surveys of MIT undergraduates, one survey comparing women who are majoring in EECS with women who are not, and one comparing men and women in EECS. The most notable results of these surveys are that women, much more so than men, feel that they have come to MIT "less prepared to major in EECS" than their peers, and that both women and men consider EECS to be a very competitive major.
In Chapter 3 we recommend some easy short-term steps the EECS Department could take to begin to address the enrollment imbalance. We have avoided suggesting measures that would result in any preferential treatment of women over men. Not only would this be counterproductive, but it would also avoid the real underlying issue. There are many superb students who are discouraged from entering electrical engineering and computer science because they are less overtly assertive and self-confident than their peers, or feel that they were not sufficiently exposed to electrical engineering and computer science in high school. These students, both women and men, can become leaders in EECS fields, and it behooves a nationally prominent Department to make sure they that will have every opportunity to do so.