Let’s Help Women Help

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on the 18th of April that the median weekly earnings of the nation’s 110.7 million full-time wage and salary workers were $865/week in the first quarter of 2017 (not seasonally adjusted), which would mean an average income of $41520 per year.

Which professions are expected to have a higher salary than the average? The Business Insider made a list of the 30 best earning jobs in the United States are there are 3 Engineering professions among them. According to Michigan Tech, someone with a “Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences” can $107,880 as a mean annual salary.

Looking at these statistics, one could assume that Engineering is a popular major, and that appears to be true. Degrees awarded to students graduating with a bachelor’s degree from an engineering program increased by 7.5 % from 2014 to 2015 according to the American Society of Engineering Education. But surprisingly the interest for engineering differs according to gender: Currently, only 13% of engineers are women in the United States and even though the growth rate of female engineering students is 3 times higher than for men, with this pace gender equality can only be reached 50 years from now in the study field.

So even though rational reasons should encourage women to pursue an engineering career, why are they reluctant to do so?

There are several reasons why women are under-represented in this field, which are well summarized by the following infographic. Among others, something that contributes to girls and young women not becoming engineers is that they never actually pictured themselves becoming one. In a survey from LinkedIn, it turned out that only 2.1% of women had science and engineering professions or machine operator jobs as childhood dream job.

While there are several opinions on what plays the biggest role in this phenomenon, there have been certain initiatives to reduce the gender gap which already have shown results: in 2016 for the first time, Dartmouth College had more female Engineering Graduates than men. They claim that the gender shift is due to the college purposefully hiring female role models in engineering and “by letting women use engineering to solve real-world challenges” said Joseph J. Helble, Dean of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth.

An experience conducted at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that when the content of the work is made more societally meaningful more women enroll, and therefore women seem to be drawn to engineering projects which aim to achieve societal good, written by the NY Times.

Another proof of this theory was at Olin College, where they succeeded in attracting more women to engineering, and Professor Zastavker says it is thanks to their perspective according to which “[Engineering]’s about humans; it’s about what we as humans need and how we can better our lives”.

While several other reasons can be named for women avoiding engineering, such as stereotype threat, lack of role models etc. a simple first step to help women enter the field if by letting young women see the potential in engineering and gain insight into what engineering has to offer. The sooner girls learn about engineering, the higher the chances are they will consider pursuing a career. Engineering is Elementary introduced a curriculum which brings children closer to engineering at a young age. But everyone can contribute to solving the issue. Current engineers should talk to girls about their jobs and parents should consciously help their children learn more about the potentials of the profession. If we help women be more involved in engineering, maybe they will be the ones helping us in the future through their work.