New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Letter to the Editor: ‘NYU Isn’t Representing Women in STEM’

A response from the dean of Tandon to a column about the school’s efforts to promote gender equality and representation in STEM.
Echo Chen
(Illustration by Echo Chen)

NYU Tandon Mechanical Engineering junior Serena Vanchiro recently gave a passionate voice in a WSN column to the frustration of women engineers across the country: It is long past time for gender barriers to fall in our field.

Society should care because of the obvious fact that we have constructed artificial barriers for half of the population at a time when the planet is facing unprecedented challenges that engineers can help solve.

We should care because research shows that diversity makes us smarter and diverse groups perform better.

We should care because we are scientists, and scientists respond to research.

The Tandon School of Engineering’s aggressive and holistic commitment to attracting and educating women in STEM — its deep caring — was in fact one of the biggest attractions for me as I explored the possibility of becoming its first female dean. Tandon’s strategic approach to increasing the population of women was clearly working, I noticed: Starting from a female population of 23 percent in 2013 (approximately the national average at the time), year by year, initiative by initiative, Tandon was attracting, mentoring, and educating more and more women, so that by the time I joined this fall, the undergraduate student body was 37 percent women and growing. at Convocation, I welcomed an incoming first-year class that was 43 percent women,  more than double the national average.

This was clearly no accident. Tandon had vigorously recruited women, initiated one of the city’s largest K-12 programs to introduce girls to STEM during their formative years, revisited curriculum to enable students new to engineering to quickly become conversant in the language and concepts used by their peers and deployed multiple mentoring and support initiatives — from a women’s community within our residence hall to techniques for male students and faculty to become effective allies. I joined a campus community where a woman was elected the student body president, and women were leading student clubs, multi-year research projects and launching tech businesses.

Like Ms. Vanchiro, this is my passion. And I pledge that it is only the beginning. I invite all students to investigate Tandon’s trajectory, and to help us accelerate it, so that in the very near future, all our graduates will be welcomed into the world that needs them so desperately.

Jelena Kovačević
William R. Berkley Professor and Dean, Tandon School of Engineering, New York University

About the Contributor
Echo Chen, Multimedia Editor
Echo Chen is the Multimedia Editor at the Washington Square News. She is a freshman in Gallatin studying visual storytelling, sprung from her love of painting, photography, film and, above all else, people! She is a fierce defender of her home state New Jersey, a plant mom and a lover of coffee, sweetgreen and animated movies. She's currently on a mission to pet 365 dogs in 2018, one for every day of the year. Keep up with her at and on ig @echothegecko.
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