Ashesi University — the Ghanaian school started by a Microsoft veteran and funded partly by Seattle-area donors — has a bold new goal.
To address gender inequality in engineering, the school plans to have women fill 50 percent of the engineering degree program that it’s launching in 2015. For comparison, women receive about 20 percent of the engineering degrees granted in the U.S.
The school plans to enroll 300 students in the first four years of its engineering program, including 150 women supported in part by new scholarships. To feed the pipeline, it’s also planning summer programs to reach more than 1,000 high school girls.
Founder Patrick Awuah made the pledge today at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York, which showcases selected global-development programs.
“Our goal is about inclusion, but perhaps more importantly, it is about ensuring that the perspectives of African women guide the engineering solutions to some of Africa’s greatest challenges,” Awuah said in a release. “Achieving gender balance in engineering education would be exceptional and would represent leadership not only in Africa, but also globally.”
Awuah left Microsoft in 1997 to start the university with the goal of producing an Ivy League-type school that would produce ethical leaders for Africa. Classes began in Accra in 2002.
Construction of the engineering school is largely funded, but Ashesi is trying to raise $5.1 million for additional scholarships, including scholarships for female engineering students.
Awuah may leave New York with new supporters. The Clinton event, hosted by the former president, gives programs such as Ashesi a platform to present to a group of foundations and other donors.
At the 2007 Clinton event, Awuah pledged to build a permanent campus for Ashesi and double the student body to 600 students. The campus opened in 2011 and this fall the school is expected to have 630 students enrolled.