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U.S. universities see a rise in female STEM majors among international students – report

More and more female international students at U.S. universities are opting to pursue degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, largely thanks to the wealth of research opportunities available.

According to the U.S. government’s figures, the total number of female international students currently studying STEM in the country has increased by more than 68 percent, from 76,638 students in 2010 to 128,807 in 2015.

Most of the students hail from rapidly developing countries, such as India and China, with the largest jump seen among Master’s students.

Jennifer Sinclair, dean of the UC Davis College of Engineering, told U.S. News Education that international students studying at U.S. institutions gain a competitive edge over other job applicants through their exposure to US innovation and entrepreneurship.

“U.S. companies are now seeking employees with entrepreneurial backgrounds who are used to working in environments that are both highly competitive and evolving,” she said.

This trend will benefit female international graduates from U.S. universities, said Curtis, adding that those “with both a STEM degree and some exposure to innovation or entrepreneurship will be highly sought as an employee by global companies large and small”.

Several female STEM students shared their experiences with U.S. News Education, including Indian national Tvisha Gangwani.

As a child, Gangwani was encouraged to pursue her studies in the STEM fields by her math teacher, who believed in her capabilities.

She is now a Bachelor’s student in electrical engineering at the University of Southern California (USC), minoring in math.

“I wanted to be a part of USC Viterbi because besides being a very good engineering school, it is known for having strong women in the engineering community. This year’s freshman engineering class is almost 40 percent female,” said Gangwani.

She added that the many research opportunities available at the school had also been a deciding factor.

Besides USC, New York University (NYU) is also seeing a rise in female students in the traditionally male-dominated STEM subjects.

Katepalli R. Sreenivasan, dean of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, said the number of female international students at the university has more than tripled in the last decade.

He attributed the increase to the fact that the U.S. is globally recognized as a leader in higher education, standing out with its “can-do attitude, hands-on experiences, and the culture of confidence it instills”.

Italian national Flavia Tauro agreed – as a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student who graduated in 2009 with a Master’s in civil and environmental engineering, she found her studies in the U.S. to be “extremely enriching”.

Tauro also completed a joint doctorate in philosophy, hydraulic engineering from the Sapienza University of Rome and mechanical engineering from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in 2014.

Gangwani, who is currently in Germany completing a summer internship at a multinational software corporation, realizes the importance of paying it forward.

In order to attract future generations of girls to take up STEM subjects, she has set up a program to host panels for high school girls, highlighting women in tech and their achievements.

“I feel like a lot of women are afraid to take up STEM fields because they believe they won’t be successful. I want to change that and show them how awesome science, tech, engineering and math can be,” said Gangwani.

Image via UNESCO

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