In fall 2014, Purdue’s enrollment of women
engineering undergraduate students
was 23 percent. By comparison, women
comprised only 13 percent of employed
engineers, the National Science Foundation
reported in 2010. As for engineering
students, national enrollment averages
about 19 percent women each year.
While Purdue's comparative numbers
are high, the University still seeks to raise
them. To continue to produce more women
engineers in the coming years, the University
must keep working to strengthen women’s
positive perceptions of engineering. By
adjusting the message and using different
communication channels, the University can
change the way in which women may judge
engineering as a viable career for themselves.
John Martinson (MSAAE ’71) seeks to
help make that happen with a $500,000 gift
from the Martinson Family Foundation to
the Women in Engineering Program (WIEP).
“Women are still a modest proportion
of all engineers,” he said. “I see a tremendous opportunity to shift the interest of
those academically qualified to undertake
engineering studies and careers.”
Changing the face of engineering
The gift supports current and future WIEP
initiatives to enhance the perception of engineering as a career, providing role models
and networking opportunities; to improve
messaging, and to support women engineering students’ professional development.
Role models are particularly important.
“Girls will see themselves in the shoes of
someone ‘just like me’ who happens to be
an engineer,” said Jennifer Groh, WIEP
Other channels include an online network,
which features hands-on curriculum that
demonstrates engineering’s design process,
“The online network will provide access
to resources, such as ‘Changing the
Conversation’ training materials and
curricula provided by the National
Academy of Engineering for alumni and
alumnae to use in outreach to girls in their
communities,” Groh said. “We will educate
alums about barriers to women pursuing
engineering degrees and give them mes-
sages to address those obstacles.”
With support such as Martinson’s
gift, Women in Engineering will be able
to further its mentoring programs for
undergraduates and graduates, too, said
Beth Holloway, assistant dean of engineer-
ing undergraduate education and director
of the Women in Engineering Program. “We
will focus on better integration of diverse
students and introduce industry and faculty
mentors to engage with small groups of
“There is a limited availability of accurate
information on what engineers do, as well
as inaccurate perceptions by the public, and
bias in cultural expectations,” said Groh.
“Women focus more on the outputs — us-
ing creativity and working in teams to make
a difference — rather than on the inputs,
such as using math and science.”
The third area the Martinson Foundation
will fund is a new course for juniors and
seniors on professional development and
transitioning to the workforce.
“A focus on professional development will
be invaluable in transitioning from academic
to professional life,” said biomedical engineering sophomore Kelsey Reilly.
Blair Wong (BSME ’ 14) said the new
course would be “perfect for helping women
affirm their decision as engineers, providing
support and encouragement, and transitioning from college life to the engineering field.”
All of these efforts align with the college’s
multicultural/diversity initiatives and its
goals of increasing the number of students
pursuing and graduating with engineering
degrees, Holloway said.
Keeping Purdue at the top
Martinson attended Purdue for an accelerated,
eight-month master’s program. Since his
time at the University, his Purdue experience and loyalty have prompted many gifts
through the years.
“I gained a technical foundation and
initiated a business foundation,” he said.
“Moreover, I advanced post-Purdue by
participating in many University programs
all these years.”
He established the Martinson Family
Foundation in 1998 to foster engineering
education. Today, he is onboard with the
the college’s strategic growth initiative and
the University’s over-arching Purdue Moves
strategies for leadership as outlined by
President Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. “I am eager
for Purdue to emerge as the largest and best
engineering school in the country,” he said.
MARTINSON FOUNDATION SUPPORTS MORE
WOMEN IN ENGINEERING
Purdue’s enrollment of women engineering students
outshines the national statistics, and the University
wants to raise those numbers even higher. Alumnus
John Martinson could not agree more.