Celebrating International Women in Engineering Day
While STEM/STEAM is now a household name, in 1960, it was reported that only 1.1 million Americans worked in a science or engineering field. Since the push for STEM programs in 2011 by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address, college freshman majoring in science or engineering has gone up to over 40% and the number of those working in a science or engineering field is rapidly approaching 6 million.
While more and more women move to the STEM field, there is still a higher percentage of men than women who graduate with a STEM degree. The gap is closing; however, this disparity often proves challenging for the women pursuing this field.
When first entering the field, several of our licensed female engineers noted a lack of women pursuing engineering. Rachel Smith recalls how when she first started her career, she was often the only woman in meetings or out on construction sites – something she found intimidating. Rebecca Bentley has been in the field for 25 years but states that in recent years, she has seen the trend in recruiting more females to STEM fields, as well as more diversity in recruiting, overall. Since their time in college, these engineers have witnessed an influx of more women in the field, something they all agree has been encouraging. In fact, they state that the addition of women in the field has made it easier for them in their own careers.
As the number of women in engineering grows, so does the amount of support and resources. Becky Klein believes that technology is key, aiding in both her and PEA Group’s ability to stay competitive. Becky credits her predecessors for paving the way. She also states, “PEA Group is probably the most supportive place I have ever worked,” enthusing that Management makes a sincere effort to have an inclusive work environment for everyone, regardless of gender or ethnicity.
Rachel has found support in the organizations that have since formed. PEA Group has supported and encouraged her participation in CREW, a global professional Commercial Real Estate organization for women. She has gained valuable leadership experience while serving on the CREW Detroit Board of Directors, permitting her to expand her business network, as well.
Rebecca believes that due to the lack of women in the field, she understands how important it is for women to support each other in the field. In addition, she believes in the significant responsibility of mentoring younger, female engineers as they start their careers. This idea, she states, is reflected in how PEA Group values their employees – that everyone, regardless of gender, has a vital role to play in the success of the firm.
Brittany Allen too sees the significance in mentorships, believing it the most helpful that there are women in management roles at PEA Group. As a young female engineer, Brittany can visualize the possibilities of her career through the example of other successful female engineers in the office. She is reaffirmed in her belief that there is definitely a place for women in engineering and other STEM fields. She believes women share a collective experience by just living as women in this world and the perspective shared from that lived experience has value when it comes to a problem-solving, work environment, and project management.
Becky and Rachel agree with Brittany and believe that women have a lot to offer the field of engineering. Becky believes women tend to be more collaborative, encouraging input from the whole team, rather than handing out orders. Rachel finds that women engineers tend to be organized, patient, and good listeners and communicators. Both women believe that it is advantageous to have a diverse group with different strengths on a team.
While there is still a disproportionate amount of male to female engineers in the field, Becky, Brittany, Rachel, and Rebecca are hopeful and excited for the future. Rebecca wishes for the next generation of female engineers to not be intimidated by fields that have historically been male dominated. She states, “if you are passionate and interested in engineering, pursue that passion and work hard to meet your personal career goals.”
About International Women in Engineering Day
International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is an international campaign to raise awareness about career opportunities for women in engineering and celebrating those in the field. First established eight years ago by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) in the UK, the holiday was first recognized as Women In Engineering Day. The holiday gained international attention and in 2016, received patronage from The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), becoming an international holiday the following year