As most can agree engineers have brought our past dreams into reality. Without engineers, there would be no air conditioning, printers, or internet. And while these accomplishments have been transformative for today’s generation we have an entire chunk of ideas just waiting to be put into effect.
While there has always been a significant shortage of women in the engineering workplace, I believe it is important to take a look at the exact numbers to see just how many ideas we are missing. Out of the engineering graduates, only about 20% are women. Even further down 40% of women who received an engineering degree either never entered the profession or quit. Finally, according to the 2019 United States Census Bureau, only about 13% of the engineering workforce is women.
So how do we help the women out there who have the ability to help progress us even further? One way the UK helped those who were women in engineering feel proud about their careers is by creating international awareness. Today is June 23 and International women in engineering day. After talking with a few women in the profession I wanted to highlight their careers and encourage other girls who want to enter the same profession.
Marizza Delgado is a data scientist on Etsy’s product analytics team and supports their core fulfillment initiative. She also has been working as a fashion model in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City. While growing up her dad was the director of Engineering and she was constantly surrounded by innovation and the power of technology. She excelled in math and science classes; however, as a first-generation Filipina American, she never saw herself in the field as she never had any role models to push her.
In 2018 Delgado attended the Grace Hopper celebration with the largest gathering of women technologists in the world.
Delgado said she “discovered the data science track and the rest is history.”
When you’re outnumbered by your male counterparts in a classroom it can be really discouraging. Delgado’s biggest piece of advice is to find a strong circle of women that will support and uplift you! She felt more like she belonged in STEM (Science, Technology, engineering, and math) after joining clubs devoted to women in tech, such as the Society of Women Engineers and Girls who code college loops.
Delgado explained that to her it’s important to have women in tech to build the future of technology. She said that they are building the Metaverse and building the Web3.
As Delgado states, “we deserve not to have gender bias embedded into it and to represent the people using it.”
Furthermore, when working in a career that is dominated by the male perspective it is important for the male perspective to remember that your alliance means the world! Delgado remembers having her dad quiz her at the dinner table over data structures. Then on her job search, her mentor connected her with his network of leaders in the data science industry. Now currently, her manager always pushes her to do more advanced analytics and sets her up for success. By encouraging women in STEM you are building lasting relationships and partnerships towards furthering not just your future but the world's.
While a career in a STEM field may feel overwhelming and you may not believe that you have the ability to balance your work-life-family through this type of career, we asked Delgado about her thoughts on balance. She balances with time box management. On her Google calendar and in a physical planner, she takes the beginning of each week to plan and makes sure that everything is included. Since she lives on the other side of the country from her family she always tries to use her PTO and company holidays to see her family. To Delgado family is everything! While it may seem hard at times, Delgado’s ability to manage her schedule is encouraging to see her ability to be in her career, have a life outside of it, and make time for her family.
Delgado wishes to continue her advocacy for women in STEM as a content creator.
“For all the future leaders in STEM, you got this!” Delgado says. “I believe in you!”
Adele Dendena is a frontend developer. She creates websites and web applications. While she says she likes to think that her work can help make people’s lives easier, we know she definitely does! She was always passionate about art and wanted to be in a job where she was allowed to live thanks to what she created. To Dendena programmers are a kind of artist as they manage to create something unique starting from nothing. So while this is not the career she thought she would be in as a kid, she still is creating art.
She was pushed into this field by her desire to always know how things work. She began by studying marketing and communication when she discovered the world of programming.
“I looked at a website and I said to myself: What do you have to do to create something like this,” Dendena states. “When I found out what the code was, it was love at first sight!”
While interviewing Dendena I asked her why she thought it was important for women to be in this field. She believes that we must stop believing that women can not work in this field. Dendena states that [women] are programmers and we should be evaluated by our skills and not by gender. She also goes on to explain that what male colleagues should know about being supportive is that it does not have to be a gender issue. As both work together to achieve a goal, they do so as a team.
“There are many women with great skills and it is right that they have the same job opportunities,” says Dendena.
Furthermore, Dendena believes that the more women there are working in the field the easier it will be for future generations of girls to have opportunities. Dendena stands firm when stating that we must dispel the myth that being a programmer is not a “woman job.” When Dendena first started she said it was not easy. In her country being a woman in this field is rare. In order to help counteract that she started talking with female developers from all over the world. This was a motivation for her. Even today though she still faces challenges when talking to other professionals online, with unimportant questions like ‘are you a woman?’
“I face challenges head-on,” Dendena said. “Yes, I am a woman and I have the skills to work in this field.”
Like Delgado, Dendena also says planning her week helps to make sure she understands exactly when she works and when she needs to dedicate herself to other things. Dendena also relates how it is important that you take free time and when you do make sure you forget about work and dedicate this time to what is really important for you.
Ellie works in the wireless division of DISH network. DISH is currently building out a new Greenfield 5G network across the country. The work she does involves testing and certifying different devices, such as cell phones, for network interoperability.
Ellie wanted to become an artist until she was 14 or 15. In high school, she joined a robotics team with some friends. The team introduced her to the world of technical fields, and she later took a couple of introductory engineering courses.
“The digital Electronics course I took was so fun,” Ellie said. “That allowed me to choose my specific major.”
When prompted with the question ‘why is it relevant for women to be in this field?’ Ellie continued on to discuss that working with a more diverse group of people means that more perspectives can be brought into projects. She works with a team that respects and supports her. The people at work make her enjoy going to work and inspire her to be a valuable member of her team. The battle between male and female colleagues does not have to be a rivalry between their wits.
“Just follow the golden rule,” Ellie says. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
While we know, according to data, that the STEM field is mainly male populated Ellie believes the choice starts in childhood. Children are given more stereotypical toys to play with, such as a girl playing house and boys playing with trucks. This leaves little to the imagination of girls and their portrayal of women in STEM.
“Until recently there was very little portrayal of women in STEM in the media,” Ellie states. “Which makes it harder for young women and girls to see themselves in that role. Both of these have become more integrated lately, but we still have work to do as a society to normalize women in engineering and science fields.”
Ellie discussed that when she first started her job as an engineer she dressed very androgynously. “I wanted to be taken seriously,” Ellie said. Normally she dresses more feminine and after a year or so she felt that her reputation was enough to be able to wear dresses to work. When she started wearing dresses her colleagues did not treat her differently at all.
“If you land in a work environment with a good culture you can be yourself and no one will make you feel inadequate for it,” Ellie says.
When it comes to the end of the day Ellie makes sure to create an active separation between her work life and home life. She uses her commute home to mentally shift her focus to her personal life and be fully involved at home. Ellie suggests asking about the work culture during your interview before you get hired to decide if it is right for you.
“The most important thing of all,” Ellie states. “ no matter what you do, is to be confident and believe in yourself. When you believe in yourself, other people will too.”
While women in engineering may be few in number, I believe they still play a crucial role in the engineering world. The importance of encouraging and discussing women in these careers cannot be overstated. Do not forget to recognize other women in engineering around you today!