Melissa, New Jersey asked Karen Strauss, Oregon Department of Transportation

AddedThursday, March 29, 2012 at 4:34 AM

Why Most Women Aren't Engineers
My name is Melissa and I am a Senior in high school. For my senior project I am doing a project on Civil Engineering. My question(s) for the engineers are why is there a lack of women in the profession? Are there specific reasons and could you please expand on the reasons if there are any. Also I need a little bit of advice. For my senior project, I need to have interaction with the class. I need my class to be involved with something hands on during my presentation. Could you suggest a simple idea of how I could get my class involved with civil engineering?
Related to Civil, Construction, Engineering Branches, Opportunities/Challenges for Women
  • Karen Strauss , Oregon Department of Transportation
    Answered Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 4:34 AM
    Hi Melissa, How exciting to hear that another woman is choosing the profession of civil engineering! Congratulations. It'll be a tough and challenging ride through college, but I'm sure you're more than capable, and that you'll really enjoy your classwork. As to your question regarding why more women don't choose engineering, my thinking is that it's mostly because women before them never chose it. To me, it's like why most men don't go into nursing. It's viewed as a field for the opposite sex, so most people don't even let it enter their considerations when choosing a major in college. It takes a strong, inquisitive mind to fight against these built in stereotypes and ask why CAN'T I do engineering? That's what so many of us did, and what we try to encourage other women to think. There is no job out there that we can't do- and more of us every year realize that engineering is a valid and enjoyable choice for us. I'm very happy you're looking into the profession! I really enjoy all the different things I can do with my degree. As for your senior project, there are several different ways you could get your class involved. If your interests lay in highways and traffic, you could present a video of a car crash and have the class divide up into teams to perform the calculations of how fast the car was going and if it was exceeding the speed limit. If you are more interested in structures, you could ask the class to build bridges out of certain materials and vote on whose bridge is most likely to fail under a certain amount of weight, and then take the bridges out and break them. If your interest is more in materials, you could have them design concrete mixes and calculate the slump that each concrete will have, and then take them outside, have them mix the concrete and see whose is most accurate (and if you have more time, you could always have them build concrete cylinders, cure them for 28 days, and then go to your local college and have them broken at the lab to see whose could withstand the most weight.) I hope these ideas help you, and I wish you the best of luck on your journey into engineering! -Karen Strauss
  • Jennifer Nakayama , Hawaii Convention Center
    Answered Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 4:34 AM
    It has always been a challenge to encourage women to pursue any technical industry, engineering being one of the main hurdles. For many decades, there has been an unspoken, yet widely assumed notion that women were less equipped to handle the stresses associated with an engineering job. My opinion is that this has been a long-held stereotype established with the strong stay-at-home mom concept of the pre-21st century. However, there have been great strides to help women face these false stereotypes, and make resources available for them to use in the workplace, an example being this Engineer Girl website that you have now visited. Women of the late 20th century and now the 21st century have definitely taken a turn and shown that they can not only handle motherhood, but run the household and excel at their profession as well. Just look at Patricia Galloway, past ASCE President and CEO of Pegasus Global Holdings, Inc., mother of 2 (verify this fact). Believe in yourself. And remember that only YOU have the power to take YOU as far as you want to go in life. For your senior project, I would suggest an interactive demonstration teaching the concept of density/buoyancy. For this you will need the following materials: See-thru tub or container, large enough to hold contents below Water, enough to fill chosen container 2/3 full A couple of Rubber duckies (yes, the plastic floating kind!), any size Golf balls (the more the better) Marking pen Place the container on an elevated surface, so all can see the inside water level. Fill with water, 2/3 full; Mark water line with pen. Ask for a volunteer to put the ducks in; Ask the class, Did the water level move? Verify with pen mark. Why/Why not? (discuss that ducks are filled with air - density is less than water - ducks float) Take the ducks out. Ask for volunteer to put all golf balls in (all at once is more dramatic); Ask the class, Did the water level move?; Again verify with the pen mark. Why/Why not? (discuss that balls are solid - density is more than water - balls sink) Explain how water displacement relates to air, relates to density, and relates to the buoyancy concept. (You can draw another analogy with a boat floating in water, if need be.) Have fun!