The EDGE Consortium—a coalition of universities and engineering schools with women presidents and deans of engineering committed to expanding the engineering and technology workforce by creating opportunities for women and people of color—is hosting its first summit in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 24.
The consortium’s kickoff event is being led by Dartmouth President Sian Leah Beilock and Indiana University President Pamela Whitten. The group was founded in April by 13 women leaders across seven institutions. In addition to Dartmouth and Indiana, the consortium’s other members are Brown University, Olin College of Engineering, University of California-Berkeley, University of Rochester, and the University of Washington.
The summit, Building a More Inclusive and Resilient Semiconductor Workforce, aims to bring together partners in education, government, and industry to explore how to take advantage of what President Beilock has called the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” provided by the passage of the 2022 federal CHIPS and Science Act to increase the number of engineers in the growing semiconductor industry.
The CHIPS Act provides $52.7 billion to support the research and manufacturing of semiconductors—crucial components of electronic circuits—within the United States, including $13.2 billion in R&D and workforce development.
“These investments are a matter of national security, but the fact is that we don’t have enough engineers to do this work,” says Beilock, noting that women currently make up only about 15% percent of the U.S. semiconductor workforce.
“Right now we’re leaving a critical source of potential talent on the table,” she says. “Research shows that having a broadly diverse workforce—including women and other underrepresented demographics—leads to the best outcomes. Higher ed must do more to bring more diverse students into the energy and tech fields. We need to create multiple entry points for more students early on, and we need to partner with industry and government to make sure real opportunities exist after graduation.”
This past spring, Beilock, Thayer School of Engineering Dean Alexis Abramson, and the other EDGE Consortium founding members signed an open letter urging industry and government to work with higher education institutions to diversify and strengthen the semiconductor workforce. The EDGE Consortium stands for Education for Diversification and Growth in Engineering.
Beilock and Abramson say that Dartmouth is well-positioned to be a leader in this work, noting that it was the first comprehensive research university in the country to achieve gender parity in engineering at the undergraduate level, and as recently as 2023, women earned 53% of Dartmouth’s bachelor of arts degrees in engineering. In addition, women comprise nearly half of the total enrollment in Thayer’s master’s degree programs in engineering.
“In addition to enhancing curricula to keep pace with rapidly evolving advancements in technology, Dartmouth Engineering prioritizes a human-centered approach to education that calls for active participation of students from all backgrounds in STEM,” says Abramson. “The complex challenges of our world need diverse perspectives and talents of the very students who may not always see themselves as scientists or engineers. The EDGE Consortium will further this work by emphasizing the connection between the semiconductor industry and far-reaching societal impact by making programming more accessible.”
Next week’s summit serves as the next step in the consortium’s commitment to supporting the CHIPS Act and will convene leaders across public and private sectors to address workforce skills gaps and inequities and identify opportunities for STEM research, education, and career pathways.
Featured speakers at the inaugural summit, which is being held at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, include U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo; National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan; Association of American Universities President Barbara Snyder; Sheryl Genco, vice president of the Advanced Technology Group at Ericsson; Fran Dillard, vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Micron Technology; and EDGE Consortium leaders, including Beilock.
Says Abramson, “Leaders in higher education have an opportunity to not only change the nation’s competitive advantage in the semiconductor industry, but meaningfully diversify STEM and create better futures for historically marginalized groups.”
This event is free and open to all. Registration is required. Those interested in attending should RSVP to secure their attendance.