When you start college, one of the biggest decisions you make is your major. It sets the path for your future. Your major dictates what kind of job you will get in the future and what you will be doing for the rest of your life. You are always told to pick something that you love, and if you are like me and decided to be an engineering major you do it because you really love it. Engineering is not for people who give up easily or who can’t deal with numerous setbacks. It is confusing, frustrating, and exhausting, but if it’s something you want you’ll stick through. If you are a female who chose to be an engineer, you made this decision with a lot more factors in mind. Engineering is a male dominated industry. It is full of people who think being a woman engineer is pathetic. Women know that they are going to have to go above and beyond to prove to others that they belong there, that they deserve to be an engineer. If you are a female engineering major, give yourself a pat on the back because you have already made it this far. If you aren’t, then here are a few things that I think female engineers would like you to know.
1. We didn’t pick our major to get our MRS. Degree or to find Mr. Right.
My first term here at UAH, in one of my first classes I met my best friend who is also a Chemical Engineering major like myself. Everyone in the room was talking about their majors and to no surprise, many of them were engineering and almost all of them were male. When I piped up and told everyone I was a Chemical Engineering major the first response I received was probably one of the most sexist things I have ever heard in my life. “Ah so you’re here to get your MRS. Degree am I right? Hoping to find Mr. Right in the Engineering Building are we?” I can honestly say I have never wanted to punch a guy in the face so much in my entire life.
When I picked my major, I did so because I love the challenge of engineering. I did so because I love science and math and problem solving. I did so because I wanted to know that I would be able to provide my own financial security no matter where my life took me. Not once did I ever think “Hmm, if I decide to be an engineer I will probably be able to find a guy to take care of me who makes a lot of money.” I can almost guarantee you that 100% of female engineers did not pick their career path with the hopes of Mr. Right in mind. Female engineers are smart and strong and independent, and we know that or else we wouldn’t be doing all the amazing things we do.
2. We have had to push ourselves so hard to even get this here.
Only 18% to 20% of engineers in the US are women, which is ridiculous since we make up 50.8% of the population. This happens because from young ages, women are pretty much conditioned to think that we aren’t as good as boys at math or science. We are told that those are things for boys. Girls get pretty dolls, kitchen sets, books on princesses or fairy tales. Boys get construction toys, science experiment kits, books on cars and machinery. We are told we will be the best mothers, teachers, or nurses. Those are great professions, but those aren’t the only things we can do. In order for women to get into engineering fields, we have had to overcome so many biases. We have been told that girls don’t like math and science, and we have had to determine that we do like math and science and are smart enough to succeed in the field. We’ve had to prove to ourselves that we are more than what societal norms have always told us. We have decided to take on a field dominated by men and prove to ourselves, everyone in our classes, and everyone in our future careers that we are so capable of doing everything we set our minds to. We know we will have to prove ourselves again and again to so many people and we are prepared for that so that one day women in engineering won’t have to.
3. We are very passionate about our majors.
I know I started off about saying that everyone should pick a major they love. Engineers really love their majors because you kind of have to in order to survive such a demanding major. Well, that is very true for female engineers. We have done so much to get to where we are, and we all have such large dreams for what we want to do with our majors. If you ever want to know what exactly a mechanical engineer does or electrical, industrial, computer, or chemical you can always ask an engineer and they really like talking about it. Every time I’ve talked to a fellow female engineering major about their major, what it is, and why they chose it they light up with this excitement and passion that is rare to see. I know I love talking to anyone about why I love my major and my plans even though those closest to me know I smack talk it quite a bit. I may hate the process but I know I’ll love the result and the same goes for all other female engineers. We want to be an inspiration for other young women that it is possible and that there is so much out there for them in engineering. We want our passion for our majors to spark a light in other young women for their future.
Every engineer is different and every female engineer is different but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that we wish other people understood these things. If you ask any woman engineer I’m sure they could add to this very short list but that is the thing, you should ask. No, it’s not easy and, we never expected it to be. Being at a school like UAH, female engineers seem common, but everywhere else we are far from it. We are some of the very few female engineers in the U.S.; we know it, and we are hoping to change it.