The campaign for equal rights for women needs to take the fight to professions which are usually dominated by men. One of those professions is engineering.
Only 20% of new engineer graduates in the USA in 2001 were women. Despite an upturn in the next two years in female enrollment in engineering courses, by 2003 only 11% of the workforce of engineers were women. This is hard to understand – women are just as capable of studying the theory of engineering as men, moreover modern engineering doesn’t require great physical strength or back breaking work.
Why are there so few women working in electrode design, in aerospace, in chemical engineering, in the automobile industry, in software design? To name but a few of the many jobs available to the modern engineer.
A large part of the problem is education. Even today educators either wittingly or unwittingly push boys in one direction and the girls in another direction. The humanities is often seen as suitable for women to study. Men it seems should study science, engineering and maths. It is part of the ingrained chauvinism of many communities. Yes there has been many great female writers and painter, but there has also been several great female engineers.
There is Kate Gleason who helped propel her father’s business to the forefront of gear-cutting machines in the USA in the early 1900s. Kate Gleason was the first female member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Here is a list taken from http://blog.ansys.com of important female engineers and inventors:
Helen Augusta Blanchard – one of the greatest inventors of the industrial era
Martha J. Coston – developed signal flares that are still used today by the U.S. Navy
Edith Clarke - the first woman to earn an electrical engineering degree from MIT
Olive Dennis – the first female member of the American Railway Engineering Association
Elsie Eaves - the first woman to be a full member of the American Society of Civil Engineers
Irmgard Flugge-Lotz – Stanford University’s first female full professor in engineering
Lillian Gilbreth – the first female to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering
Grace Murray Hopper – a remarkable woman, rear admiral and PhD who grandly rose to the challenges of programming the first computers
Emily W. Roebling – considered to be in charge of day-to-day construction of the Brooklyn Bridge
Nora Stanton – the first female member of the American Society of Civil Engineers
Mary Walton – a pioneer in reducing air pollution during the Industrial Revolution
These are the role-models we should tell female students in school about. Their biographies will do no small amount in the long run to get more women into engineering.