Women in Engineering
More Needs to be Done
November 2, 2019
Adviser’s Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this opinion article belong solely to the author and do not reflect the view of The Colt Chronicle Staff, Kinnelon High School, or its students and staff members.
As of 2018, only 13 percent of engineers are women.
However, compared to decades prior, 13 percent is a vast improvement. In 1960, a mere one percent of engineers were female, and by 2000, the percentage increased to 11 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; but this isn’t enough.
Engineering requires a wide range of creative and diverse minds to effectively come up with solutions to problems. With the lack of female representation in the engineering field, it makes it easy to forget about what women can bring to the table; a new mind, new creativity, and new perspectives.
For example, when vehicular safety features― such as airbags― were first introduced to the general public, women and children were frequently harmed or even killed when they deployed, too forceful for the smaller skeletal structure. Eventually, the insight women gave to the engineers developing the airbags ensured the complete safety of everyone during an automobile accident.
However, the problem continues to untold depths. Women are leaving an engineering education and the engineering field in swarms. According to the American Association of University Women, 32 percent of women switch out of college STEM majors, and out of the 20 percent female engineering major graduates, only 11 percent making it to the workforce as an engineer.
As a Georgetown study proved, women are not deterred when faced with a discrepancy in gender composition or gender stereotypes in the engineering field. Furthermore, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, women are “just as resilient as men in sticking with demanding fields,” meaning that women aren’t leaving engineering because of its difficulty. Rather, an extensive, deeply-rooted cultural problem is at play.
One in four women will leave the engineering field compared to one in 10 male engineers, according to a study conducted by the Society of Women Engineers; moreover, the one in four women are also part of the 38 percent of women who make it into the engineering workforce but end up leaving. What’s more, approximately one in five women cited organizational climate or culture as the driving factor, while 11 percent cited working conditions, lack of advancement, or low salary, according to a research paper conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Increasing the female presence in the male-dominated field of engineering is an essential step to breaking down pervasive gender stereotypes while allowing for a diversified field, resulting in new perspectives and approaches to problems. Working together, women and men alongside each other in equal numbers, is a critical step to continue moving, not only the engineering field but also the world, forward.
For more information on women in engineering, visit the Society of Women Engineers’ website.