Each year, we can see how things are looking and according to the most recent admissions figures, the proportion of women accepted at KTH level was 31.6 percent. That was a reduction from 32.8 percent last year. Even so, this total figure is a touch misleading, however. If you look at the different programmes, another, more varied picture, emerges.
For example, the proportion of women studying architecture has increased, and this includes students who take our combined Engineering and Teaching programme, or within biotechnology where woman make up the majority.
Our Computer Engineering and Electromagnetic Engineering programmes have substantially fewer female students however, where they comprise around a fifth and just over eleven percent of students respectively, even if these figures have fluctuated somewhat in recent years. Female students comprise almost 60 percent of our Chemical Engineering intake while over 88 percent of Engineering Physics students are male. That a large number of KTH study programmes are attractive to both women and men is a good sign. Having said that, we want a large majority of KTH study programmes to attract all talented individuals who like science and technology.
Why do certain KTH programmes still find it difficult to find a balance and how can this balance be improved such that, irrespective of gender and background, everyone with the right entrance qualifications should want to apply to all our programmes?
This is something that we, along with the rest of these sectors, address all the time. Is it the culture? Is it the image that you have to be some kind of maths genius that deters people or is it something deeply rooted?
Naturally, this depends on several reasons, but the Swedish Research Council report on equality in universities, reveals how the recruitment base is reflected in who ultimately becomes a professor. If there is far too great a gender imbalance between students from the start, this is carried on to the next level in the academic career path all the way up to professor level. But even if the proportion of women were higher among those that are suitable for recruitment, this is still no guarantee, as even here, the proportion of female professors is lower within science and technology, the report claims.
Mentors and opportunities to become suitably qualified scientifically can make a big difference. I sometimes also think that identifying with someone and having role models should not be underestimated. For example, I hope as the first person in my family to study at university (Chemical Engineering at KTH), that I and many other people opened the door by showing the way others had gone before us. We are all role models and influence the choice of study programme.
This is why KTH is now working intensively to cast our net wider so even people who do not have a role model in their immediate surroundings, can discover that an engineering degree is both exciting and rewarding, especially if you want to help make the world a better place.