Just under half of the labor force in the US is made up of women (45.8%), but only a mere 11% are in the engineering field.
In fact, jobs that are more geared towards science, technology, manufacturing, or engineering have historically been dominated by men. Even though women may have expressed interest in these particular fields when they’re younger, they often don’t follow through with these interests and end up following a completely different career path once they’re of age to pursue one.
The truth is, engineering jobs are important ones in the workforce. And as women continue to take on roles as financial breadwinners in many households, jobs like those in the field of engineering are important in the future of women.
Of course, STEM jobs (those involved in the science, technology, manufacturing, and engineering fields) are not just for men. Any woman who is educated and trained in any one of these fields and expresses an interest and competence in it can be just as successful as a man in the same position.
Like any other field of study or industry, diversity can be a good thing for the engineering field. Having different perspectives come to the table to create something innovative is exactly what’s needed to continue to progress engineering and to come up with ideas that can increasingly solve problems related to the industry.
The question is, what steps can be taken to boost the number of women taking on engineering roles in their careers?
Start With Schools
Children almost always have an answer about what they want to be when they “grow up.” In addition to all the typical answers that little girls might give, “engineer” can be one of the more common ones if they are encouraged to pursue such fields when they’re young. Rather than painting this industry as one that only boys tend to take up, girls should also be taught that this is a viable field for them and that a job as an engineer can be both exciting and rewarding.
Studies suggest that students who participate in programs that involve creating something of innovation and competing with others in the same field are much more likely to major in engineering or science.
Foster Female Leadership Roles in Engineering
Not only should girls be encouraged to enter the field of engineering when they’re young, they also need role models to look up to. With mostly men filling these leadership roles, girls may be under the false presumption that these roles are not meant for them.
But women can bring something a little different to the table that men may not be able to, making roles of leadership within the realm of engineering more diverse and all-encompassing. More specifically, women have a higher tendency to express more empathy when they are in leadership roles, a characteristic that has been shown to have a positive impact on a company’s growth and productivity.
Progress is already being made when it comes to increasing the number of women in engineering roles. That said, there’s still a long way to go as women continue to be outnumbered by men in this field of study and career path. By piquing their interest when they’re in junior school and even earlier and fostering a workplace that supports women in leadership roles, there’s no reason why more positions in the field of engineering can’t be filled by women.