Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is celebrated on February 21st as part of National Engineer’s Week. This is one day that is devoted to fostering a growing and welcoming environment to encourage girls to pursue careers in engineering. It’s all about inspiring the great innovators, creators and thinkers of the next generation.
Such a day exists because when you search for the most common occupations for women, the top three results are elementary school teachers, nurses and administrative assistants, as reported by the United States Department of Labor. Nowhere on that list of the top 25 occupations for women does it mention engineering or any STEM-related occupations. This means we could be missing out on a lot of future potential.
Great Women in Engineering
Women have always played significant roles in engineering, some even overcoming discrimination to bring us some of the most significant advances to the field. Many female engineers are responsible for things we rely on every day.
- Hedy Lamarr, a famous actress from the 1930s is known for more than just her beauty. She is responsible for creating a frequency hopping theory that now serves as the basis of modern technologies, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections.
- Next time it’s raining outside and you’re on the road, make sure to thank Mary Anderson, an engineer from New York. Anderson invented the windshield wiper design that is used today by auto manufacturers.
- Have you ever taken a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge? Emily Roebling stepped in as the first woman field engineer and technical leader of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband, the chief engineer, became paralyzed and could no longer work. She was responsible for most of the chief engineering duties. She contributed to engineering without even having a formal education in the industry.
- Mary Jackson, NASA’s 1st African American female aerospace engineer, began her engineering career in 1950s, when female engineers were almost non-existent. Jackson analyzed data from wind tunnels and real-world aircraft flight experiments on airflow which led to immense improvements in planes.
Overcoming the Gender Gap
According to the Society of Women Engineers, only 13% of engineers are women. In thinking of why this gap exists, there are many potential reasons. The most difficult reason to overcome is the fact that the engineering field ‘has always been that way’. Although many are looking to change this trend, many other factors must improve such as:
- Encouraging Education Early: When you ask a little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, you might get an answer like a princess, ballerina or maybe even a teacher. While those are great and inspiring options, introducing Engineering at an early age to all is crucial. Studies show that by as early as the second grade, students have already decided what career path is appealing to them and what they believe they can excel in the future. In a study done by the Society of Women Engineers, in 2014 the percent of college freshmen women who intended to major in STEM was only 7.9%, compared to 26.9% for men. It is critical to expand students’ perceptions of the engineering field and make it an attractive career for all. All it takes is making kids believe that they can.
- There are some great tools for helping kids learn, have fun and get inspired by engineering. We recommend SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids.
- Role Models for Girls: Because of the lack of women in the engineering field, there is also a lack of role models for girls. Role models are a good way for female engineers to connect with girls and make them realize that engineering is an exciting and rewarding career. Role models have the power to make others realize the positive impact that they can make on the world.
It’s just one day, but that’s all it takes to make a child realize their potential and possibilities. It’s in our hands to inspire the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.
To learn more about National Engineer’s Week or figure out how you can get involved, click here or contact us!