Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The job market is competitive enough as it is, but being a woman in a male-dominated industry can be even more daunting. Last year a study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology reported that the number of women in engineering jobs in the UK alone is worryingly low – at just 6 per cent.
Historically, women in the US have also represented a low rate, with less women entering scientific and engineering careers. However, these low rates of women, and others across the globe, are making a name for themselves and a difference to our lives.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain for example built its reputation as a pioneering and inventive nation. Today, however, there is a shortage of skilled workers to fulfil engineering roles in the UK - 20% of jobs remain unfilled. Companies worldwide are complaining of a lack of experienced workers, yet they are creating more engineering and IT positions and the government is actively encouraging apprenticeships. There has never been a better time to get into engineering!
A Female Interest in Engineering
There are international professional organisations promoting an increase of female engineers. The IEEE Women in Engineering publishes an award-winning magazine and holds events across the globe to facilitate recruitment and put forward engineering as a vocation in the classroom. Try Engineering [www.tryengineering.org] and Try Computing [www.trycomputing.org] have been set up to demonstrate what a career in engineering or computing might be like. It lists the universities that provide the best academic qualifications and opportunities.
If you enjoy creative endeavours, problem solving and have a curious and inventive mind, engineering could be perfect for you. Whilst science, technology and maths at school are seen as ‘boys’ subjects and it is true that these are dominated by boys, with girls preferring art subjects. This is no reflection on the abilities of girls; in fact most of the girls that take these subjects outshine the boys.
Perceived inflexibility over things like childcare, and of course being outnumbered in the workplace by men may put some women off, but the Americans are paving the way for women in engineering roles. And have been doing so for longer than you might think. Emily Warren Roebling helped her husband oversee the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, taking it upon herself to learn the mathematics, construction and materials knowledge needed to productively contribute. That was in 1872. Mary Walton was an inventor who devised a mechanism to reduce smoke emissions in 1879. Martha J Coston created signal flares that the US Navy uses to this day. She was a widower with children to support and had had no formal training.
The Modern Engineering Woman
Nowadays women are revolutionising the way we work, mainly in the IT engineering sphere. Jennifer Chayes was a Professor of Mathematics at UCLA before moving to Microsoft Research. She has co-invented more than 25 patents and has won numerous awards. Mary Ann Davidson is the Chief Security Officer at Oracle – the largest software company in the world. She came from a naval family and worked her way up through the ranks in the US Navy Civil Engineering Corps. She is now considered a leading expert on computer safety. She is an outstanding example of success, despite no formal training in her field.
Marissa Mayer is the amazing CEO of Yahoo and was the first female engineer at Google and at 37 years old, this female is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company; ranking in number 14th of America’s Most Powerful Businesswomen. She was chosen to attend a National Youth Science Camp and specialised in Artificial Intelligence at university. Her career path is remarkable and she is truly an inspiration to women in business, as well as in the engineering industry.
Jenny Ann Beswick wrote this article for you. Inspired by these women she has branched out her hobbies to engineer new creations. If you are looking to expand your skills there are many Engineering Careers available. We look forward to hearing how your passion for engineering develops!