Monday, July 22, 2013

Why Being a Female Engineer is Awesome (Part 1)

Apparently, there are some girls who still grow up thinking that engineering and science isn't meant for women. I could cite one of the plethora of studies which shows that girls tend to lose interest in science by 8th grade, or point out that the percentage of practicing female engineers and scientists is abysmal. But the negative association of women and technology was made perfectly clear when I was doing outreach with a class full of middle school girls targeted as high achieving math and science students, only two of them saw themselves as future engineers or scientists. Granted, I didn't even consider being an engineer until I was fifteen years old, so I'm not one to judge.

I know that high achievement levels in science and mathematics doesn't pigeonhole you into a specific future career; you can be an amazing inventor and scientific thinker like Roald Dahl who is also meant to be an famous writer.  But, it is important to remember women can thrive in the world of engineering (case-in-point: Ruby and I). Considering how much I beat up on the harsh realities of being a woman in the engineering world in this blog, I figured I should also let you know some reasons why I love being an engineer. So here is the first (silly) reason I love being an engineer:

It's a great party conversation.

Some young girls believe that science and technology jobs are not "glamorous" career choices,  but I'd argue that in this day and age it is one of the most glamorous jobs you can have. I don't see anything more glamorous than awkwardly low ponytails that can accommodate hardhats, old and stained coveralls, and a pair of lab goggles.

But when I'm socializing outside of work at everything from wine tastings,  to show premiers,  to wild house parties, being a female engineer is always a great conversation starter. As an adult one of the first conversations you have with new people is what you do for a living. Since female engineers are about as common as a polar bear in California (hint, there are some polar bears in zoos), peoples' natural curiosity kicks in and they ask more questions.

Luckily, developing new systems is a universally interesting subject. Tell me you don't want to talk to someone who helps build planes, computers, bridges, or solve some other problem that impacts our day to day lives. Obviously, you don't want to drone on about technical details, but talking about the impact of your work can make you sound like a superhero. A fashionable, social, intellectual superhero.

It's actually kind of uncomfortable sometimes how much people love that I'm an engineer. One woman I met monolouged for a good 10 minutes about how she admired me for breaking down boundaries and making a difference. Given,  she was already four glasses into a wine tasting and was splashing little droplets of red wine everywhere as she emphatically punctuated her sentence with her glass. I assured her that it's a job like any other,  but she kept on telling me that she aspired to be a strong woman like me someday (although she was over twice my age). This was all done while my friends with different jobs waited patiently without any word on the important work that they all do, which is super rude. Just goes to show,  non-engineers can be socially awkward too!

Even less drunk people have the same reaction. I met a well respected author at a swanky awards ceremony once, and when she heard what my job was she said that engineering was "basically magic"  to her. Unfortunately it wasn't J. K. Rowling,  because that quote would have been extra awesome. But as it stands, I'm pretty sure only engineers and magicians can claim that people think they have some super human powers. I mean,  just look at Iron Man.

And that, kids, is how space transporters are made. 
In conclusion, when you venture to parties as a female engineer, prepare to be fawned at, appreciated, and admired for being a woman who works in engineering. If you are going to a nerd party where most of the attendees are engineers, then you'll probably be fawned over just for being a woman. You can't lose.




  1. wow, this was such a well written article; it really has changed my view on engineering.
    Oh, and nice drawings too.
    I really enjoyed this post!\
    : )

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Its been more interesting to read about those facts also the points you highlighted with experience also making it more true, this will indeed create more understandable values for the one. medical school personal statement

  4. Completely agree on this point. I know when people ask me what I do I am shocked if their instant response isn't "Really?!" 😂


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