4 answers

Are there equal engineering opportunities for girls?

Asked Austin, Texas

Are there equal engineering opportunities for girls? #engineering #engineer #women #women-in-tech #equality #sexism

4 answers

Greg’s Answer

Updated Sunnyvale, California

It's difficult to answer that question definitively without a lot of statistics on hand (which I don't have), but based on what I've read, we have not yet achieved equality, though things are improving.

That said, within the software-engineering industry, particularly as realized in Silicon Valley (where I live and work), there's a huge amount of competition for good engineers and a corresponding realization that doing anything that either ignores or discourages half of the candidate pool is just plain stupid (a.k.a., "bad business"). All of the top-tier companies are actively sponsoring programs to foster more participation in tech by women, whether high-school and college outreach, coding competitions, internships, mentorships, scholarships, special on-site events, you name it. I think it's not yet clear which of these will be the most important, but given the historically pervasive biases--particularly in online forums, where anonymous posting can lead to absolutely brutal, crushing feedback--it has become clear that a multi-pronged approach is needed to overcome those biases.

But if you're interested, willing to work hard--yes, perhaps harder than your equally talented male counterparts, at least in the near future--and willing and able to move past the occasional snubs and insults posted by anonymous cowards (there are way more of us than them, regardless of how much noise they make!), there are plenty of opportunities for women in engineering, and that will only increase over the next few decades.

Finally, be aware of "impostor syndrome," the (false) feeling that everybody else knows what they're doing and that you're the only one who doesn't know as much. Everybody feels like that a great deal of the time; if you've been doing something long enough that that's no longer the case, it's probably time to get out of that run and move on to something new. Here's a recent BBC article that discusses it: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36082469 . I bring it up because one of those pervasive historical biases is that "men are better at tech than women," and that can encourage impostor syndrome in women engineers--which in turn can trigger a negative feedback cycle, in that being more uncertain leads to speaking up less frequently and backing down in discussions more frequently, which leads to being overlooked for promotions, being seen as less competent, etc.

Thank you so much for all this information, Greg!

Claire’s Answer


Caitlin - Let me assure you that in today's business world there is a vast amount of opportunity for women in engineering. Technology companies are working to drive more women into engineering through their work with education communities and philanthropic activities. If you have a passion for engineering - go for it - you'll see lots of doors opening for women to come in and be engineers!

Jennifer’s Answer

Updated Chandler, Arizona

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Businesses generally do not segregate engineering jobs between men vs. women, but traditionally the field has been dominated by men. As Greg noted, you may have to work harder to be noticed. Speak up, be competitive and don't be afraid to ask questions - even more than once - to get what you want. Men & women do approach projects differently - embrace that and use it to your advantage. Best of luck!

Simon’s Answer

Updated Greensboro, Georgia

Heck yes!!! I have worked with many female engineers. With very few exceptions over my 30+ years as an engineer, I would classify them as excellent. I had a staff made up of male and female engineers. Different engineering jobs have different requirements, data collection, vendor visits, customer visits, contractor reviews, field visits etc. As long as you are willing to do all the tasks the job requires, your career is limitless. Good luck.

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