Cordant Focus

Category: Industry Sector Insights


National Women in Engineering "Girl Power"

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Famous Women Engineers:

  • Emily Roebling (1803-1903) stepped in as the first woman field engineer and technical leader of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband, Washington Roebling, became paralyzed and could no longer work without the help of his wife.
  • Mary Anderson (1866-1953) invented the windshield wiper after a winter trip to New York in 1903 where she observed a driver leaving his front window open to clear falling sleet from the windshield.
  • Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) might be recalled as a sexy movie star of the 1930’s and 1940’s, however, few know that she invented a remote-controlled communications system for the U.S military during World War II.  Lamarr’s frequency hopping theory now serves as a basis for modern communication technology, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network connections.
  • While working for DuPont, Stephanie Louise Kwolek (1923) discovered liquid crystalline polymers, which resulted in the product Kevlar. Containing fibres that are stronger than steel, Kevlar is used to make bulletproof vests, radial tires, airplane fuselages and fibres optic cables.

“Attempts to Girlify Engineering”
Today women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law, and business, but why are so few women becoming scientists and engineers? The answer lies in part due to our perceptions and unconscious beliefs about gender in mathematics and science. Fortunately, stereotypes and bias can change; often the very act of identifying a stereotype or bias begins the process of dismantling it.

How Hollywood can inspire female engineers
Females playing STEM-literate characters are gaining more popularity in the movies — for example, Natalie Portman played a physicist in the "Thor" movie and Sandra Bullock starred in "Gravity" as a female Astronaut.

How women will improve engineering services
Attracting and retaining more women in the STEM workforce will maximize innovation, creativity, and competitiveness. Engineers design many of the things we use daily—buildings, bridges, computers, cars and food packaging containers etc. When women are not involved in the design of these products, needs and desires unique to women may be overlooked and with a more diverse workforce, scientific and technological products, services, and solutions are likely to be better designed and more likely to represent all users.

Targeting girls at 14
Girls are ruling themselves out of a career in engineering by age 14. This is a key priority to address to create a sustainable increase in the number of female engineers; 68 per cent of young people aged 11 to 14 said they were influenced “a lot” by their parents when it came to career choices.

There are too few girls who take the right STEM subjects at A-level, in particular physics. About 72,000 girls achieved A to C in GCSE physics in 2013, and only about 10 per cent of those actually went on to take physics at A-Level. As a nation we need to try and encourage more girls to follow through with the STEM subjects at A Level, to equip them to do engineering or STEM subjects at University if they would like to.

The more teachers, educators and society in general know about the multitude of careers available in engineering, the more girls the UK will have coming through the talent pipeline to fill the significant skills gap which the nation has in this area of employment.