On June 23rd, 2021, organizations, corporations, and universities across the globe will sponsor events honoring women engineers and the girls who aspire to be like them.
International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is the yearly clarion call to spread awareness about the work and achievements of women in the engineering industry. "The day provides an important opportunity to raise the profile of women engineers and highlight the amazing career opportunities available" (internationalwomensday.com, para. 2).
Some may ask why we need a day to celebrate women in engineering. Although it is clear women work in a variety of capacities once belonging to the domain of men, it is also clear that women are woefully underrepresented in some industries, particularly engineering.
There are many reasons, varying theories, and frequent speculation about why women are underrepresented in the engineering field. For example:
- Stereotypes about women being inferior to men in math and science still lead to self-fulfilling prophecies
- Sexual harassment and hostile working environments exist in many industries
- Females receive lower pay than their male counterparts for the same jobs
- Young girls are often not encouraged or supported in math and the sciences
- Young girls lack role models in STEM industries
There is no one answer to the persistent problem of a lack of women in STEM careers. Fortunately, there are many who have devoted their careers to empowering women in the sciences because they understand the world needs diversity among the scientists, engineers, and technologists working to make our lives easier, healthier, and more productive. One such example is the collective work of The Society of Women Engineers.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was established in 1950 with a mission to "stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity." To this end, SWE provides learning and outreach programs, advocates on public policy, scholarships, and awards to those doing commendable work in the industry.
A Nationwide Challenge
One long-term solution to the nationwide challenge of having more STEM positions available than people with which to fill them. Is to introduce STEM topics to girls at an early age. Cultivating a love of STEM within a child is far easier than many would imagine.
Children are inherently experiential learners. They are curious about how things feel, how things work, and how they can interact with their surroundings. Capitalizing on children's innate ability to investigate while creating a positive learning environment in which they feel safe exploring is essential to instilling a love of STEM.
The following tips may be helpful for thinking about how to engage kids in STEM topics:
1. Do not give in to the stereotype that girls are not good at math or science
This stereotype is damaging for many reasons, but perhaps the saddest is that it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. When girls implicitly and explicitly receive repeated messages that they are not able to succeed in math and science, they believe those messages.
2. Research fun engineering projects, toys, or games for kids
Plank sets, circuit boards, solar kits, and robots are just a few of the hundreds of projects, toys, and games available for kids. Playing is learning, and when introducing these kinds of activities to young girls, one is helping to make them make positive associations with STEM.
3. Encourage hands-on, experiential learning
No book will give a child the feeling of staring into a shark's eyes, the sense of touching a starfish, or the sound of a lion's roar. Bringing children out into the world, especially to museums, aquariums, or zoos, can foster a love of experiential learning. Also, the interactive elements of educational components in these settings are geared towards all learning styles.
4. Relate everyday experiences to STEM topics
One does not have to look far for examples of STEM concepts in daily life. The math of banking, the science of cooking, the technology of computers – it is all right here. Teaching kids STEM concepts necessary for engaging in daily life is a great way to spark a love of STEM.
5. Focus less on grades
Both boys and girls struggle with mastering STEM concepts. Often students lose interest in what they are learning if they are not getting the grades they would like. Providing a safe learning atmosphere and placing more emphasis on learning and less on grades, helps keep students interested in STEM topics.
The more girls are encouraged and supported in learning about STEM, particularly engineering, the more likely they will continue studying throughout their education; ideally, graduating and finding their place in an economy that is increasingly dependent upon their skill and expertise.
Celebrating Famous Female Engineers
In the spirit of International Women in Engineering Day, let us celebrate a few!
- Margaret E. Knight: famous female inventor in the 1800s amassing more than 26 patents in her lifetime, including invented the flat-bottomed paper bag and making improvements to the rotary engine.
- Hedy Lamarr: devised a method of encrypting signals to prevent enemy spies from listening to sensitive information.
- Edith Clarke: first female engineer and created the Clarke calculator for graphing electrical properties.
- Marissa Mayer: first female engineer to join Google and the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Yahoo.
- Kimberly Bryant: electrical engineer who founded Black Girls Code, a nonprofit organization, is focusing on providing technology and computer programming education to African-American girls.
- Priya Balasubramaniam: background in mechanical engineering, supply chain management, marketing and software engineering. She is currently the vice president of Core Technologies Operations and iPhone Operations at Apple Inc.
- Mary Golda Ross: the first known Native American female engineer, and the first female engineer in the history of Lockheed. She was one of the 40 founding engineers of the renowned and highly secretive Skunk Works project at Lockheed Corporation.
- Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay: received the Infosys Prize 2017 in Engineering and Computer Science for her research in algorithmic optimization, which has led to the discovery of a genetic marker for breast cancer and the role of white blood cells in Alzheimer's disease.
- Ellen Ochoa: once a research engineer, she became the first Hispanic female to travel to space.
- Martha Coston: engineer credited with creating a signaling flare system, known as Coston flares, which is still used by the U.S. Navy today.
Lead Change with Other Women - Advance Your Career with STEM Education
As you think about celebrating the accomplishments of women engineers, be sure to consider and celebrate your own regardless of what industry you are in!
As you do, think about your career. Is it time for you to switch careers? Is it time to learn new skills? Would you like to transition into engineering management? If so, Kettering University Online can provide you with the knowledge and skills to change the trajectory of your career!
Whether you just have a simple question or need advice to determine which program is best for you, our expert advisors are here to guide you. Schedule an appointment with our Enrollment Advisors to get more information on the entire admissions process so you can feel confident in moving forward with Kettering University Online!
International Women's Day. (2021) Women in engineering day called for women to #shape the world. https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Missions/15543/Women-in-Engineering-Day-called-for-women-to-ShapeTheWorld