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How can a women thrive in a male dominated field?

I am going into engineering. I understand that my college classes and workplace will be dominated by men. I would like to know how I can assert myself and no be intimidated. engineering women-in-stem

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4 answers

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Caroline’s Answer

Hi Molly, great question!

For me, finding confidence in those situations came with time and experience - the more I felt I knew about a topic, the most likely I was to ask questions if I didn't understand some part of it. It can be difficult as a minority, because you probably already feel like you don't belong in the space and that people think less of you, so asking a question or asserting an opinion seems risky - like you'll be confirming a negative bias. Try your best to push past that though, and with time it gets much easier!

I also want to echo Adrian in saying that you need to build up a support system! I'm part of a great group of female engineers at work, and whenever one of us has a concern (am I being assigned only the busy-work? am I being overlooked for a promotion? am I being constantly interrupted in meetings?) we discuss it together and figure out a plan to fix it (talk to a manager, HR, etc).

Confidence in yourself is important, but confidence alone won't make you successful due to the biases that work against women in engineering - this article does a great job explaining why: .

Good luck! We need more women in engineering, so stick with it!

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Simon’s Answer

Hi Molly,

First, engineering a great career for everyone. I have been an engineer for 35 years and during that time managed local and national engineering groups. Over past 10 years women have made significant progress, not only being welcomed, but also bring desired on engineering teams. When I addressed my staff I made no distinctions between men and women. I stress confidence, seeking peer opinions, working accurately and doing as much as one can, especially when a new challenge is presented. I promise that if you consider yourself an engineer first (gather than a female engineer), work accurately, efficiently, and as a team member you will be accepted. The women in my group were every bit as good as the male engineers. Your fellow engineers, along with your customers and resources will respect you for your knowledge, work ethics and interpersonal skills. Diversity in engineering teams is always a good thing. There a good numerous female engineering societies and groups that can help if you like participating in groups. Good luck and I think you will make a great addition to any engineering team.

Simon recommends the following next steps:

Study hard and hone your engineering skills on school
Work on a team and practice giving options and options.
Join an engineering society and start networking with other female engineers.
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Adrian’s Answer

You really have to have confidence in yourself, know your stuff inside and out and do not be afraid to seek help and/or ask questions. For me what really helped also was having a core group of guy engineering friends who would help me and have my back, and joining the Society of Women in Engineering (SWE), as they can definitely assist you more in this area.

Adrian recommends the following next steps:

Join SWE
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Ken’s Answer

Your success in any career area, regardless of gender orientation, is directly related to

the time and effort that you take to

  • identify the career area for which your personality traits are best suited
  • appropriately prepare for that career area
  • keep up with current education and training relating to that career area
  • develop networking connections beginning with your initial education and continuing through your career development.

Here are some tips that will help you to achieve success and fulfillment in your career.

Ken recommends the following next steps:

Take an interest and aptitude test administered by a counselor and have that counselor interpret it. This can be done at the high school level, and to get maximum results, it should be done again when you first get to college, as the counselors might have slightly different interpretations, but you should not wait until college to have this done.
When you get the results, talk to the person who tracks and works with graduates of your high school and the college you entered or are considering, to arrange to meet, talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people who are doing what you think that you might want to do based upon your test interpretation. Here are some tips that will help to get information: ## ## ## ## ## ##
Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people in your career of interest belong, so that you can meet people doing what you think that you want to do. These associations are very open to including students and many times offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These professional associations are the means by which professionals keep up with trends in their field and advance in their careers using networking contacts established with the groups. Here are some helpful hints: ## ## ## ##
Here are some links that will help you to learn more about the various facets of engineering: ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##
Here are some tips on how to proceed with your education in a manner that will prove to be economical and effectve: ## ##