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Women in Engineering

Craig Fields | with 0 Comments

Women in Engineering

In a recent New York Times op-ed, a female professor of the University of California - Berkeley argued that women will be attracted to engineering if they believe the work benefits society. Lina Nilsson, who has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, also states that to increase the number of women in engineering, we need to reframe the goals of engineering research and curriculums to be more relevant to societal needs.
We asked three female engineers in our firm to reflect on Nilsson’s comments. They overwhelmingly agreed this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s not to say they don’t care about helping society – that is a given in what they do on a daily basis as engineers. So, what do they believe engineering firms need to do to increase the number of women in engineering? Here’s what they had to say.
It’s critical to promote math and science for both boys and girls in 6th-8th grade. Schools need to continue offering the “fun” hands-on projects that are prevalent in elementary school. 4-H promotes these activities and other school programs should do the same.” – Shannon Lybarger, LEED AP BD+C. Read more.

In addition, girls and young women need to be told that they can successfully handle the roles of engineer and parent. I’m the mother of a three-year-old and a newborn. My firm provides the flexibility I need to manage my different roles at work and home. When I tell other females about my career path and my work/life balance, they realize it’s possible to become a superstar engineer and a working mom. I believe women shy away from the field because they don’t feel they can do both, which is clearly not the case with the flexibility offered by today’s technology.” – Raine Gardner, PE. Read more.

The other way to attract female engineers is to reach out to them to at a young age—before they lose interest. I volunteered this winter at the Girls in Science Festival at the Science Center of Iowa. There was an amazing response from young girls who were interested in the STEM fields. These are the kind of activities that we need to get females into the engineering community. The industry needs to sponsor these kinds of events, have our female engineers attend and act as role models for these girls and show them the possibilities of what they can do as engineers in the future.” – Nichole Sungren, PE. Read more.
The focus currently has been attracting the young female student to engineering; however, it is sustaining this excitement and passion for this field through secondary and post-secondary education that is a must.  Based on a study, once a woman graduates, she is more likely to stay in the engineering field than her male counterpart, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. I take that to mean women who are in engineering like to work in engineering.  As employers it is a balance of providing the right career opportunity and the work/life blend required for personal growth and success.   
Cultivating an environment for engineers to succeed is a critical element in the formula of a company’s success. At MSA, this is what we strive to do for all of our engineers. Contact Craig Fields or visit our careers page for more information on opportunities at MSA.

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