Women in Engineering: Why I Chose an Engineering Degree
I became interested in engineering during my freshmen year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, after I took a chemical engineering introduction course. I realized that the technical skills in math and sciences gained throughout my previous schooling had finally become practical. The opportunity to combine engineering principles with biological sciences to improve and advance the medical field is what started my interest in Biological Systems Engineering. After several inquiries and doing some research, I was sure engineering was something I wanted to pursue. An engineering degree has excellent career prospects, and I personally think it's interesting to develop a large-scale real world application for something from a design in a lab--say in Biomedical Engineering. The engineering field has a huge amount of diversity even within the single streams; it's got the practical side, theoretical side, and sometimes involves management. The bottom line is that engineering teaches you how to analyze problems in meticulous detail, which can be extremely useful even outside of engineering. The fact that I can tell you exactly how much product we will make and what it will be made of at any point in time, for any conditions blows me away. It keeps me interested!
Women in Engineering
There are some girls who still grow up thinking that engineering and science isn't meant for women. It is important to remember women can thrive in the world of engineering. I chose engineering because I loved math and science, and engineering promised real opportunities to change the world. We make everything: from bridges to engines, IT systems to cosmetics. As a freshman, I lived in a learning community, which was a floor of girls pursuing different fields in engineering. This was motivational to me because I saw other girls like me following the same career path. The learning community was like a support system for each of us, we took almost the same classes allowing us to build relationships and help each other.
As a female engineering student, the situation actually favors me greatly. Employers call for diversity at the workplace and treat me as a rare gem. Once we're on the job and prove we're competent, it's so easy to stand out among all your colleagues. In college, I have never felt discriminated against for being female, or less able and passionate than my male counterparts.
Introducing a girl to engineering can happen anywhere and at any time. Think about what works for you and your energy level. You can:
- Ask an engineer to visit your afterschool program. In just 45 minutes engineers can share the best parts of their job, how it makes a difference in the world, do a hands-on activity, and answer youth's questions.
- Arrange for a small group of girls to visit an engineer at work or on a college campus. They could get a tour, meet female engineers, learn about different projects, and even eat lunch with an engineer. .
- Share this video of Goldie Blox founder, Debbie Sterling, to inspire future female engineers.
There is an Engineer in Every Girl
I did not know anything about engineering until I got to college. Before I joined an engineering learning community, I lived in one of the traditional residence halls. There, I met a girl from India who was a Chemical Engineering student. I consider her my role model because she introduced me to engineering and I actually believed engineering was something I wanted to pursue. Considering I was undeclared for the first semester of my college career, she helped me apply to the college of engineering and since she was an upper classmen, I had the privilege of shadowing her in most of her classes to see what engineering was about. I will always be grateful to her for encouraging me and other girls through our college careers. This video relates to how I got interested in engineering.
None of my female friends from school are pursuing engineering in college. It is such a shame, as I know that they have the potential to succeed in this field. Besides the lack of females pursuing degrees in engineering, I think women bring a different perspective to the table. Equal representation is especially important in engineering, as engineers design products and solve problems that affect a male and female world. Imagine the greater advances that could occur in engineering if men and women were working together more often.
Engineering a STEM Identity
Many young people don’t know an engineer or even what engineers do. Here are some ways to reinforce how important engineering is to youth:
- Engineers have the technical expertise to make a difference in the world.
- Engineering touches many of their areas of interest (the packaging their toys and games come in, the cars they ride in, the computers they work on etc)
The work of engineers is more than the stereotypical picture most people have. Share with youth that engineers work in teams to design engines that emit less pollution. Engineers are at the heart of medical breakthroughs. Engineers are the creative drivers behind movie special effects and virtual reality games.
If a young person is interested in making a difference in the world, engineering is a great choice as it gives them the skills and expertise to impact thousands of lives every day. If youth enjoy:
- using their imagination to solve problems
- teaming up with other people
- designing ways to make something better
- being challenged in new and interesting ways
- working on big, complex projects
they may find a connection to a career in engineering.
Below are engineering fields to share with youth, to help them engineer a STEM identity
- Medicine: Biomedical engineers develop artificial lenses that restore sight to the blind, radiation treatments that fight cancer, or incubators that keep premature babies alive. Learn more about a career as a Biomedical Engineer
- The Environment: Environmental engineers find ways to clean up our oceans, rivers, and drinking water, develop air pollution equipment, design more effective recycling systems, or discover safe ways to dispose of toxic waste. Learn more about careers in Environmental Engineering
- Food: Agricultural and biological engineers design methods of keeping harmful microorganisms out of our food supply, create innovative systems for growing fruits, vegetables, livestock and fish, or help developing countries preserve more of their harvested grain against insects and mold. Learn more about careers in Food Engineering
- Fashion & Entertainment: Computer science engineers develop cutting-edge music software, create shopping apps that help customers choose styles—and then recommends matching accessories, and where to buy them, or produce a digital set design programs that add virtual actors to the set and shows how all the elements interact. Learn more about careers in Computer Science Engineering