Hi Wendy. I did the Engineering thing too and I totally agree with you!
I don't think the quota filler thing happens too often in aikido. Although, I have seen the teacher's wife/girlfriend get promoted without ever really having anyone really challenge them to the level that other people of that rank were challenged in class. (I think that can be said about the current Doshu to some degree. I mean no disrespect, but honestly, some people are put up on a pedastol whethere they want to be there or not. It is unfortunate for them really.)
From a dojo's perspective, the choice of how you approach learning/teaching aikido is major factor to attracting women (and of course men). Generally, the white belt people are expected to do crude approximations of the waza where turning up the intesity results in yanking and cranking people around AND all challenges to poor technique are met with semi-controlled atemi. Conversely, there are also many teaching approaches where the people are very safe but they never/rarely take it up a notch as far as intensity and drama. I'd imagine that it would be hard for new females (and males for that matter) to have the faith in such aikido to work in a more stressful situation. So, I think that the main issue from a dojo's perspective is that you have to develop everyone towards using incredibly soft yet powerful technique such that everyone can work out as hard as their common denominator of ability allows. The result of getting someone to the ground _at any cost_ needs to be disallowed until a rank that can handle that kind of thing safely - like sandan+.
As far as society contributors, the main thing I can relate to as far as new women to the dojo are concerned is that every class is kind of like the Sadee Hawkings dance for a new female student. This is because most junuior members of the dojo are expected to seek out the seniors for help. In a dojo that is predominately male, that is just not what society has told them is normal.
Also when a senior male tries to continue working out with a new female student or just gives her any encouragement, I have noticed through the years that that genuine *martial* interest or interest in helping the dojo prosper with new students is almost always misinterpretted as sexual interest. Who can blame the new female students. They probably have been hit on by guys since they were 13 or so. Also, there are guys in dojos who do hit on every female that walks in the door. That one is difficult to to deal with as the teacher. In one case, who the heck am I to tell people not to date, but in the other case, the dojo is a safe place where you should not have to worry about that. And, that kind of thing would never happen while I was in ear shot, so I wouldn't know.
I actually had a weird backlash problem with this once. At one point in my training, I joined a dojo that had several female students who were senior to me. I asked some seniors to work with me after class and I got the same feeling from them you get when you ask someone out who is clearly not interested. I picked up on that pretty quickly and stoped asking that person. It took me a while to see that just the female seniors where like that with me - but it was most of them. I really wasn't trying to date them, and I didn't know how to fix the problem, so I didn't ask them to work out with me after class. I thought I might win them over by training with good energy and commitment but it always seemed they just barely tolorated me. That was a bit creepy and weird. Althought, I never had that experience in any other dojo - I imagine this is a manifestation of the the kind of creepy stuff that goes on below the surface level. I don't know how to make things better because it seems like it takes trust in open and honest communication that people might just not have when they first walk in the door.