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How to Encourage Women to Pursue a Career in Engineering

How to Encourage Women to Pursue a Career in Engineering


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About This Lesson

Statistics are aplenty when it comes to women being disproportionately represented in workforces related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM), but the reasoning behind those statistics is certainly not scientific. Implicit biases created from a historically patriarchal society have perpetuated baseless claims like “girls aren’t good at math” and, though not done with malice, those biases are the reasons for staggering statistics like the fact that one in seven engineers in the United States is a woman, but 50% of aspiring engineers (those looking for jobs) are women.

The good news is, that 20 years ago, those “aspiring” numbers were much lower, so as baby boomers start to retire, that one-in-seven number should shrink significantly, but certainly not to the point where it is one to one, as it should be, given the fact that there are larger percentages of women pursuing these degrees, as the aforementioned biases start to be recognized and acted against.

With more opportunities for women to become involved in STEM fields early, and some conscious efforts being taken to even the proverbial playing field in the workforce, there has never been a better time for women to succeed in engineering fields. The climb is still a bit more uphill than that of their male counterparts, but here are some reasons you should be confident in your pursuits in the STEM world, and passionately go after what you want with poise.


One of the best ways to encourage, is to share examples, and here are some engineers standing out in 2020 (who happen to be women… but engineers first!).

  • Paula Smith Hartley, VP and GM of Lockheed Martin – Even more than engineering, as a whole, military engineering is even more of a male-dominated industry… but Paula is in charge of one of the most forward-pushing teams in military comms, security, weapons, and surveillance in the world
  • Priya Balasurbramaniam, VP of Core Tech Operations and IPhone, Apple – She oversees the massive supply chain for iPhone manufacturing… a pretty big deal given the fact that 2.2 billion were sold in 2019, alone
  • Gwynne Shotwell, COO, SpaceX – It’s hard to talk about women in engineering without mentioning the head of the most exciting private space program the world has ever seen. She has been the spearhead for space accomplishments such as launching the most powerful rocket ever, re-using rockets, and landing “discarded” boosters on a drone ship after they are detached from a spacecraft


Some trends that should certainly be exciting for young women who like mathematics and science include many initiatives introducing them to STEM fields, including, but not limited to:

  • National Girls Collaborative Project
  • Women in Engineering Proactive Network
  • Million Women Mentors
  • Scientista
  • Association for Women in Science

With help from these organizations, among others, the numbers of young women in engineering are not as disproportional as they are for the 30-plus demographic. Between 2009 and 2016, the number of women receiving engineering degrees almost doubled, and the trend is continuing to rise. The total percentage, however, (in engineering, not STEM as a whole) is still about 35% to 65% female-to-male.


The facts and trends mentioned above are recognized by institutes of higher education, and many initiatives exist to get more women involved in engineering degree programs. Society, as a whole, is also slowly but surely starting to recognize the biases that have caused the disproportionate numbers in engineering employment, and as you pursue your own career, don’t be afraid to mention these statistics.

The only way to counteract decades of unfair treatment is to vocalize and to be the change you want to see!


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