Why Girls Should Enter Engineering
When I was a senior in college, I was asked to talk to a group of high school girls about career possibilities in engineering. I jumped at the opportunity. I had returned to college to pursue an engineering degree after I had received my degree in education. I was so happy to see so many young women listening and asking questions about engineering. However, several months ago, the girl scouts in my area had to cancel a workshop for girls about opportunities in engineering. No interest existed. This was sad.
I think part of the problem has to do with the image of engineers. People don’t understand us. They don’t know what we do. When I told people I was a mechanical engineer, they thought I worked on cars. And somebody once said, “I couldn’t do engineering because I don’t like to get my hands dirty.” On rare occasions, I did get my hands dirty, but only from walking through the refinery and touching a pipe or beam which happened to be dirty. On a routine day, I got no dirtier than I would walking in my front yard.
Much of my work involved sitting at my desk planning my projects and designing my equipment. It’s great to develop a plan and design all the equipment, then watch it all come together as dozens of crafts people get out the welding torches and build it. I’ve always enjoyed planning. I think women are especially good at planning and it is a major part of project engineering and project management. A large amount of my time included walking through the unit, checking locations for new equipment and piping. I designed that equipment and piping and needed to make sure that it would fit in the spaces available. In addition, I spent time in meetings and classes. On one project in
I was called upon to design an eastern style toilet in which the direction that
the toilets pointed was essential. If I had pointed them the wrong way, they
would have torn it down and started over. That certainly required thinking out
of the box and certainly nothing my engineering education had provided for it.
On most of my projects my education provided a theoretical background and some
practical knowledge. But, by no means enough. However, in all cases, the main
thing I learned in college was how to learn. And I had to use that knowledge on
all of my projects.
In conclusion, getting your hands dirty is not necessarily a part of the engineering job. There are mechanics, construction workers and others who get their hands dirty. As an engineer, you have to know how to think and how to solve problems. A good engineer is not one who knows everything. A good engineer is one who can figure out how to solve the problems of industry.
Why should girls enter the engineering field? We’re good at it, for one thing. We get paid well and we have a high degree of job satisfaction and employment security. We should encourage girls to consider engineering as a profession because the nation needs engineers and because it’s a great profession. And we need to encourage them at an early age.