From left, Caitlin Murphy, Michelle Szeto, and Eugene Ng watching an ergometer demonstration by Terry Kent, Cornell’s team rowing
coach, on how to practice paddling.
first-year undergrad students enrolled in engineering programs
But Cornell Engineering shatters the national trend. Close
to 40 percent of its student body is female. Of the nearly 1,100
students on teams, 37 percent are women. Nearly every single
Cornell Engineering student team has female leaders.
engineering world where women are still a smaller minority,
there are moments when being a young female engineer means
that they stand out from the crowd. For some, it can be a light-hearted moment.
“The teams are a reflection of our student body,”
Macdonald says. “It is exciting to see Cornell ahead of the trend
and being a trailblazer in producing engineering leaders from
all backgrounds and genders.”
“Sometimes we make jokes that we should go out for girls’
night. Once we even received a silly award at a competition for
having the most girls on the team,” says Tiffany Ly ’15 MSE,
team leader for Cornell Engineering’s Concrete Canoe team,
which is split evenly among male and female students.
Overall, the female student leaders for these teams
represent a vibrant mix of backgrounds and experience levels,
but they all share a passion for engineering, problem solving,
and creating smart, innovative design. But in the larger
But for some, standing out from the crowd also means
having to confront the biases.
who consider engineering the domain of men.
“There are moments where I notice that someone sees me
as being different because I am a woman or young. What I’ve
learned is that I can’t let it bother me and ultimately, I know if
I work hard, the results will show for themselves and people
will respect that,” says Corinne Lippe ’16 MAE, leader of the
Mars Rover’s drive systems subteam. “I do take it as a challenge
when someone judges me. I want to prove them wrong.”
Likewise, Brecken Blackburn ’15 ECE, subteam leader
for the Engineering World Health team, says that she has
noticed the surprised reactions when someone learns she is an
“The reactions are never hurtful, but it is obvious that I
baffle their expectations of what an engineer should look like,”
Many female students interviewed for this article spoke
of the disbelief they have encountered when people learn they
are engineering majors. Like Blackburn reported, it is never
harmful but the reactions illustrate that there are still people