Thursday, May 19, 2016

Engineering Isn't Just for Men

This week I celebrated my 1-year anniversary of working at my current district. It is also the 3 year anniversary of when I started interning for the Department of Transportation at another district. I can't believe how much I've learned in 3 years but more importantly, I've found myself and my calling. I like being a role model for women in engineering, so here's my story.

When I was in high school, we had to take an "art" credit and a "technology" credit. I was very fortunate in the fact that my high school offered a variety of electives, ranging from home economics to web design. Well, I wasn't very artsy-artistic and I really didn't want to take woodshop, so I went with Drafting & Design, which was essentially straight-line drawing which took little creativity. I wasn't the only girl in the class, which was not surprising for a freshman-year elective. I learned how to hand draw using lots of engineering tools, which was a great experience.

I enjoyed Drafting & Design 1 so much that I continued into Drafting & Design 2 for my sophomore year. There were significantly fewer girls in the class (maybe three total) but that didn't deter me. This year, we learned basic 2D modeling on the computer using AutoCAD.

We were only required to take two years of electives, but I craved more. Junior year I took an Architecture Design, with the same three girls in the class. During my senior year, I progressed to Engineering Design, where I was the only female out of a 12 person class. I know what you're probably thinking... you probably just flirted your way to an A. No, no I didn't. I didn't even get an A. I got a B.

Some of the things I did in high school engineering were:

  • Designed a video game character similar to a transformer. Drew it in 3D and made it move. (This was probably the worst project ever because I don't know video games.)
  • Built a hydraulic robot. (The link leads to my old YouTube channel which I can't access anymore, but the video is still there!)
  • Took apart my cellphone, drew all the pieces on the computer in a 3D program, and put it back together virtually. Then put it back together in real life. And it worked.
I'd like to think that my high school experience prepared me for college. But I don't think it did. Throughout high school, I was picked on for liking engineering. In my senior year especially, I was highly encouraged by my own engineering teacher to not risk failing out of an engineering program and to save my time and money. But guess what I did? I proved him wrong.

Out of the 12 people that were in my engineering class, less than half went to school for engineering and even less actually graduated with a degree in engineering. Right before I graduated, I went back to my high school and brought my former teacher a pendant from my university for him to hang on the wall and remind him that I was not a failure.

According to Forbes Magazine in this article, engineering is not one of the "top ten college majors" for women as it is for men. But in this article, also by Forbes Magazine, women with engineering degrees are in the "top ten best paying college majors". (Shout out to Civil Engineering for coming in at #10.) Yes, the percentages are low, but the rewards are grand.

Out of the 88 students in my graduating class of Civil Engineers, Architectural Engineers and Construction Management majors, 17 were female. That’s about 20%. For my university, I think that is one of the larger groups of females. For some engineering majors, the percentage is lower and I’m not surprised. But…. Women are making a comeback.

At work, my boss is female. Her boss is female. The person who runs my entire district is female. I'm not a feminist by any means, I swear. But where I work, women and men get paid the same if they are in the same position. None of this "women make 70 cents for every dollar a man makes" crap. If you aren't happy with what you are making, find a job that will pay better. They are out there.

There are many professional organizations for women in Engineering. I, myself, am a member of Women in Transportation Engineering (not an affiliate link). Other groups are (clickable non-affiliate links) Society of Women Engineers, IEEE Women in Engineering, and Association for Women in Science to name a few.

As a female in engineering, I like to encourage girls to go after what they want and to never let anyone tell them what they can or cannot be. (Although, if it wasn't for my dad, I probably wouldn't be an engineer. He always pushes me to be the best.)

If you are an engineer (or a STEM woman), be sure to give me a holler in the comments section! Also, if you have any questions about women in engineering, or you want to know more about my story, don't hesitate to contact me!


  1. I knew tons of engineering majors in college and now they work in different fields both mail and female. I think it's important people realize that women can do any job mean can do. And bad ass for you not dealing with the wage gap!

    1. There isn't a wage gap where I work! It's nice.

  2. I took a couple of engineering courses in college, but now that I program I wish I had taken more on that front! I'm all about women taking over STEM!

    1. It's an empowering feeling knowing that I am smarter than some people. Programming is cool!

  3. That's absolutely amazing and inspirational. Love to hear more women working/studying in whatever field they want even those dominated by men.

  4. You go girl! I'm currently a senior in Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon, and my boyfriend is actually a Civil Engineer like yourself!

    I had a similar experience with a math teacher in high school who told me I would amount to nothing, and that he "wouldn't be there when I had six kids, no job, and no car." Every day I prove him wrong as a woman thriving in engineering.

    Woohoo for women in STEM!

  5. I'm currently a Biomedical Engineering major at New Jersey Institute of Technology, and it makes me so happy to have found a blogger with similar experiences! I've been going to a tech school since my freshman year of high school, and even amongst criticism and discrimination from my male peers, I can honestly say that I love what I do. I am just a sophomore now, but I can't wait to see what is in store for my career in STEM!

    - Katrina (