By all accounts engineering remains a male-dominated industry.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that women fill 47 percent of all jobs, while men take up the other 53 percent.
However, according to more recent figures from the National Science Board, women only filled 24 percent of STEM jobs in 2018. And the industry in which women are least represented? Engineering.
TechCrunch writer Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, president and director of the Museum of Science in Boston, says the numbers are ‘startling.' He writes:
“At a young age, girls internalize long-lasting stereotypes that tell them that boys are better at engineering and computer science, and that girls simply aren’t engineers. And during these formative years, they never have an opportunity to imagine themselves as engineers.”
Dr. Jordan B Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, explains why that might be:
“Women are tilted towards empathizing and males are tilted towards systematizing. That seems to fall into alignment with other observations suggesting that, the biggest gender difference between adult humans is interest preference. Women are much more likely to express interest in occupations that involve a lot of social contact, whereas men are more likely to manifest interest in occupations that have to do with things.”
Peterson points out that even in the Scandinavian countries — considered the most gender equal societies in the world — the most striking gender differences exist, based on occupation. He reports that the ratio of male nurses to female nurses is 1:20, and the ratio of female engineers to male engineers is also 1:20.
Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis notes that even with the advocacy groups and the many institutions prepared for increasing numbers of female engineers, the results are disappointing.
The Engineering Institute of Technology has seen more women apply to the institution as the boundaries of entry for women lowers in the education sector. A 24-year old female Advanced Diploma of Civil and Structural Engineering graduate from EIT, Oyama Khanyisile Vundla, is a driven young woman ready to take on the Engineering world. She says:
“Media plays a huge role in people’s perceptions of how men are equipped for engineering and women are not. Even the movies we watch display men as engineers, people end up believing that women can’t survive in these industries. I would definitely advise young women to pursue this industry and cast away all the negative spin that says we can’t survive in this industry.”
What else can the world collectively do to inspire more females to join the Engineering workforce?
Apparently the answer is to play video games!
A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior reports that girls who play a plethora of video games between the ages 13 and 14 are more prone to investigating STEM job opportunities in their future.
Through the demographics of the women polled in the study, it was clear that a majority of the women who identified themselves as gamers were studying STEM subjects at degree level.
The study conducted by Director of Ph.D. in Higher Education at the University of Surrey,
Anesa Hoesin said:
“Our research shows that those who study STEM subjects at degree level are more likely to be gamers, so we need to encourage the girl gamers of today to become the engineering and physics students and pioneers of tomorrow.”
Hosein is trying to pressure educators to introduce gaming to girls at a young age so that they become familiar with interacting with technology at a high level.
We could also use platforms such as YouTube to get girls interested in a digital future where an equal number of men and women are engineers. A YouTuber named GoldieBlox features a young female engineer showing off her skills to a wide audience of 561,345 subscribers.
Goldieblox is a digital media, publishing and consumer products company that is helping inspire girls in STEM fields. They target their content towards young girls, in the hope of encouraging them to pursue STEM opportunities in the future.
Currently, only 11 percent of engineering faculty in the US is women. The key to improving this statistic seems to revolve around getting girls involved in engineering at a younger age. New strategies must be tested so humanity can benefit from the contribution women could bring to the engineering industry.
“'Geek Girl' Gamers Are More Likely to Study Science and Technology Degrees.” University of Surrey, www.surrey.ac.uk/news/geek-girl-gamers-are-more-likely-study-science-and-technology-degrees.
Miaoulis, Ioannis. “We're Addressing Gender Disparity in Engineering Way Too Late.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 26 Oct. 2018, techcrunch.com/2018/10/26/were-addressing-gender-disparity-in-engineering-way-too-late/.
Ramble. “Jordan B Peterson: Why so Many Male Engineers and Female Nurses?” YouTube, YouTube, 7 Aug. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7uZOAzVRgU.