Damsels in Success: Why We Need More Women Engineers
Education and Careers In a world where engineers are in demand globally, four out of ten women are leaving the profession.
And some, though they studied STEM, end up working in an unrelated field from the start.
Research suggests a variety of reasons for why the number of female engineers is so low (only 14 percent in the U.S.), but some factors include being steered down a different career path, lack of confidence among male colleagues and potential setbacks for women who choose to have children.
The truth is, we need a diverse set of minds when it comes to problem-solving and fixing things – and that includes a woman’s intelligence and perspective. So what can we do to increase the number of female engineers?
Sowing the seeds
Start by encouraging them in the classroom. Let’s come right out and tell those women taking STEM courses what great engineers, coders, computer techs they can be – verbally enforce how talented and intelligent they are. Reminding them of their potential will actually help them realize it.
"Research suggests that the lack of flexibility in engineering jobs plays a big role in both men and women leaving the profession."
Then show those same women what the face of engineering can be. At our colleges and universities, we should be working to create more externships that allow students to see women excelling in the field.
Inviting female professionals into classrooms to speak about their careers can also provide insight into what STEM jobs really involve. All of these pieces together can successfully transition a student into an engineering career that she’s not only qualified for, but that she wants.
Leaders by nature
Once those women are working as engineers, let’s get them into leadership roles. Making sure these brilliant minds are also considered for every position boosts their confidence in a male-dominated arena. Putting these women at the head of a team or the lead on a project will only confirm what we know to be true: their skills are not only valuable but essential to our scientific progress.
And just like we should be doing in every industry, let’s create a realistic work-life balance. Research suggests that the lack of flexibility in engineering jobs plays a big role in both men and women leaving the profession. Redefining these positions so they allow employees to better manage their careers and their lives is key. By offering more support, professionals – especially women who often juggle multiple roles – are more likely to stick with their chosen career… and, better yet, succeed at it.