Engineering more women into STEM careers

Engineering more women into STEM careers

According to a recent report, America needs to act quickly to reinforce its talents in the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

achieve this is by increasing the number of women studying and working in STEM subjects.

The report entitled “Building America’s STEM Workforce: Eliminating Barriers and Unlocking Advantages” noted how important a part diversity plays in increasing innovation and productivity.

The STEM subject with one of the lowest numbers of women studying and working in the field is engineering which seems to be incorrectly viewed as a “masculine subject”.

Studies have shown that the “barrier” in this case could be due to societal gender stereotypes which children as young as kindergarten age have picked up on. This means girls start to believe from a very early age that science, and in particular engineering, is not a subject for them.

This is a great pity as there have been many great American female engineering pioneers, and encouraging more females to follow in their footsteps could give America’s STEM credentials a huge boost.

Take a look below at some of the women and their achievements and what the current situation looks like regarding women working and training in the subject. Then read on to find out about the type of training is available and what careers are out there for the female engineers of the future.

Women in Engineering: The Stats

While women engineers only total 13 percent of the engineering workforce, there is some good news in that there has been a 58 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering and computer science to women from 2012 (25,900) to 2017 (40,876).

So while more still needs to be done to redress the balance, it seems efforts to even out the numbers are starting to have an effect.

Some of the work being done to encourage more females into the subject involves starting right from kindergarten and elementary school. Educators are trying to make the way STEM subjects are taught more interesting to spark the interest from the very beginning, then following up with the right information in high school and beyond regarding training and employment.

Famous Female Engineers

Lillian Moller Gilbreth 1878–1972

Industrial Engineer

Perhaps most well known for her time-and-motion studies, she, along with her husband, created the Gilbreth System.

Using these studies, they redesigned machinery to improve efficiency by making it suit the movements of the worker better – the birth of ergonomics.

She also earned herself a Ph.D. – one of the very few female engineers to do so at the time.

Edith Clarke – 1883–1959

Electrical Engineer

Inventor of the “Clarke calculator,” which solved electrical current equations among other things, and it worked ten times quicker than the previous methods.

She was a woman of many firsts, including the first woman professor of electrical engineering in the U.S. and the first female electrical engineer professionally employed in the country.

Ellen Ochoa – 1958-present


The former astronaut served aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery and became the director of the Johnson Space Center.

She was the first-ever Hispanic woman in space and the first Hispanic director of the space center. She is now involved in the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, chairing the committee that evaluates nominees.

Grace Brewster Murray Hopper – 1906–1992

Computer scientist

Grace was a rear admiral in the United States Navy. Specializing in the area of computer programming, she created a computer programming language that, instead of symbols, used the English language and let the computer translate it into machine language. After being told it couldn’t be done, she proved her doubters wrong.

Sarah “Tabitha” Babbitt – 1779–1853


After watching the two-person whipsaw in use, noticing how half the motion was being wasted, she set to work creating something better, coming up with the circular saw. She was also said to have invented a new way to make false teeth and a better spinning wheel head.

Engineering Education

If reading about these pioneers has sparked an interest in an Engineering career for yourself, there are many different fields of engineering to think about, and the one you choose to specialize in will really depend on your own particular skills and interests.

You might consider electrical and electronic engineering, where you could be involved in designing new electrical equipment or working on huge power supplies.

If massive structures have always fascinated you, civil engineering covers things such as bridges, rail networks, and buildings.

If you also enjoy chemistry, combine your interests with chemical engineering, where you can create brand new materials.

Mechanical engineering involves finding better ways of doing things by designing mechanical systems.

There are also specialist areas you can train in which incorporate many of the fields above, such as aerospace, agricultural, biomedical, computer, environmental, architectural, automobile, robotics, marine, nuclear and structural engineering.

Once you have completed a degree in your particular field, to make yourself stand out compared to your engineering counterparts, some establishments even provide distance learning opportunities, such as Kettering Global offers online Masters Degree programs, including everything from an MBA to a Master of Science Engineering Management. Visit their website to find out more about what they do.

Engineering Career Opportunities

There are many career opportunities available to those with a talent for engineering, and they generally pay well too. Another positive sign when considering entering the profession is engineering careers are on the rise.

According to Forbes, of the 1.6 million engineering jobs, civil engineering came in at number one, accounting for 274,000 jobs, mechanical engineers were second with 264,000 jobs and in third, industrial engineers with 229,000 jobs. Engineering jobs have grown by 7 percent on the whole, but the top three roles with the most considerable growth have been in petroleum, mining and geological, and biomedical engineering.

So with engineers in such high demand, a variety of jobs to consider, and focus on diversifying the profession, could you be the next female engineer to take the world by storm?