Women in Engineering


Grace Harting, Writer

As long as I can remember, whenever someone asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the answer has always been clear: an engineer. Many members of my family are engineers, and when five-year-old me discovered this fact, I knew I’d want to carry on the legacy. 

I should note that I’d never felt pressure from anyone to pursue this dream, it’s truly something I’ve always wanted to achieve. Now that I’m older, the dream has stuck with me, but I’ve come to realize the number of barriers I’d have to breakthrough. The amount of hard work, determination, and effort that goes into earning a degree in the field, not to mention the sexism of the industry. On average, women make up around 20% of engineer graduates in colleges and universities across the country and even less (16%) actually go into the workforce. With small numbers of women going into engineering, it can be hard to be taken seriously. Even as a high school student, I have seen the limited amount of women in engineering. I am taking Principles of Engineering this year and in my class, I am the only girl. When I started the Engineering track, I personally witnessed fewer and fewer girls who were in my classes. None of my female friends attend technology classes such as woodshop, metal shop, or any of the engineering courses. The engineering classes I have taken throughout high school have personally been my favorite: I’ve learned time management and efficiency skills and I’ve used machines and methods of fabrication that few people my age know how to use, like forging, welding, technical drawing, among others. 

Historically, women have faced many educational obstacles, from the exclusion of higher education to the infrequency of females in the workforce, life for the average woman was difficult. Although times have improved, the numbers still are stacked against females. In 1993, the number of women in a STEM field was at around 8.6%. Now, in 2020, the number is around 13%. While being a female in STEM is hard enough, women of color face more obstacles. These women are underrepresented and face discrimination on a daily basis for their race and gender. With all these discrepancies that women face, why would any girl even consider being an engineer? The need for female engineers and scientists is higher than ever. By excluding this group of people, we only lose more brilliant minds who bring new ideas and perspectives that are necessary in today’s climate. Studies have shown that more diverse workplaces are happier and more productive, and this goes beyond engineering. This is because companies are looking for top talent, not someone who fits their “image”. With more women in STEM, it will encourage more and more females to join the field of engineering and STEM and can help close the salary gap. If that’s not enough of a reason to convince you to pursue a career in STEM, then consider the fact that STEM jobs are the fastest growing and have some of the highest starting salaries. It won’t be easy, considering many women in these fields face family pressure, higher standards, and mistreatment. But the benefits and end results outweigh the negatives. Engineers are given the position to change the world, from designing vehicles for space travel, to constructing and improving ways of travel (such as bridges, cars, planes, and more), to building machines used in hospitals around the world.

Many colleges and universities have made efforts to encourage more women to become engineers. For example, this past summer I attended a virtual engineering camp with the University of Dayton which gave me more insight into the field and allowed me to meet women who have successfully made it in the field. These programs are fun and engaging and help explore each branch of engineering. Many universities have a student organization called SWE, or Society of Women Engineers. With so many areas of engineering to explore, like mechanical, chemical and biochemical, environmental, civil, computer engineering, and much more, the field of engineering has so much to offer to everyone. SWE and organizations like them motivate others to explore each branch, learn about what they do, and support each other and young girls through each step of the way.

So despite the difficulties of climbing the ladder of success, in the end, you aren’t only helping yourself and achieving your dreams, but also showing young girls that they can dream big and how they too can discover the joys of not only engineering but STEM as a whole.