Many of the innovations that shape our world were developed by women in engineering. Modern inventions such as search engines, blue tooth and wifi all owe credit to the female engineers who helped create them. As colleges continue to see increasing enrollment of women in STEM study majors, the contributions of female engineers will continue to help shape our world exponentially.
But engineering and STEM majors weren’t always home to female innovators. A look back at [date] shows that only [number of women] were enrolled in such fields. Still, that didn’t stop women of previous generations of women from innovating.
From developing technology for Allied forces to solving the complex equations needed to put humans into outer space and on the moon, women engineers have always helped shape our world and solver our greatest problems.
(H2) Famous female engineers
Female engineers have created past and present innovations such as radio communications, space travel and search engines. They range from Hollywood actresses turned radio engineers, to motorcycle racers and NASA engineers. The following are five remarkable female engineers who have helped shape our modern world.
(H3) Hedy Lamarr. (note she was in a risqué 1930s film. basically stuff that would be on tv these days, but a little controversial)
Lamarr lived a storied life, working as an actress, film producer and inventor. During World War II, she helped develop a torpedo radio guidance system for the Allies. Techniques based off of Lamarr’s system are seen in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology used today. In 2014, Lamarr what's posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
(H3) Katharine Burr Blodget.
Blodget was the first woman to receive a PhD in physics from the University of Cambridge. While working at General Electric, Blodget developed a form of invisible glass. This glass had almost no reflections and was used in Hollywood cameras as well as submarine periscopes and aviation spy cameras during World War II.
(H3) Beatrix Shilling.
Shilling was a motorcycle racer and aeronautical engineer. During World War II she developed a fuel restricter for Royal Air Force fighter planes. During nose dives, RAF planes would stall because the engine would flood with fuel. German pilots knew this and would use the nose dive as an effective evasive maneuver. Shilling’s fuel restrictor enabled RAF fighters to nosedive without stalling.
(H3) Katharine Johnson.
Johnson was a mathematician and NASA employee. Her calculations we are integral too early U.S. space missions. Her strong knowledge of analytical geometry enabled her to calculate launch windows, flight paths and emergency returns. She is a recipient of the presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal. She was portrayed in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
(H3) [Save for retired RTX female engineer]
(H2) Women in engineer in scholarships
Not long ago, it was uncommon to see women studying engineering fields in college. As a result, there were far fewer women taking up professions in engineering. Scholarships awarded to women studying engineering and STEM fields are helping to change this.
In 2019, the Society of Women Engineers provided nearly 260 new and renewed scholarships. This totaled over $800,000 in funding.
(H3) Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship.
The Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship is reserved for female undergraduate students majoring in engineering, math, or biological or physical science. For the 2020 to 2021 academic year, three female students will each be awarded $2500 scholarships. Applicants must submit a 500 to 1,000 word essay and one of the seven science-based topics chosen by the Heinlein Society.
(H3) Women Techmakers Scholars Program.
Formerly the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship Program, the Women Techmakers Scholars program is a Google sponsored scholarship for women. Inspired by the late Dr. Anita Borg, this program offers financial support as well as an online network and community to recipients.
(H3) Science Ambassador Scholarship.
The Science Ambassador Scholarship is a full-tuition scholarship for women in STEM fields. There's only one winner each year, however, a handful of runners up will receive $1,000 in financial aid. Applicants are required to film a three minute video of themselves teaching on a STEM topic. Videos are then reviewed by an advisory board of other female engineers.
(H3) Society of Women Engineers.
The Society of Women Engineers provides scholarship funding to women studying engineering technology or computer science programs at community colleges, baccalaureates and graduate programs. The society offers over hundreds of scholarships a year with almost $1,000,000 in totaly financial support.
(H2) Women in engineering day
Women in Engineering Day is celebrated on June 23rd every year. It began in 2014 in the UK as part of the Women's Engineering Society’s celebration for its 95th anniversary. In 2017 it became an internationally recognized day.
The aim of Women in Engineering Day is to encourage women to take up interest in engineering fields and to celebrate the accomplishments of female engineers. People are encouraged to research the innovations of female engineers and share them with friends and colleagues.
(H2) Women in engineering statistics
Data shows that the number of women in engineering college programs and professions is growing. From 2012 to 2017 there was a 58% increase in bachelor’s degrees awarded to women in engineering and computer science fields. The number of women studying a STEM field as freshman in college increased by over 150% from 2007 to 2017.
(H3) What percentage of engineers are female?
13% of engineers are female. 26% of computer scientists are women.
(H3) What percentage of stem majors or female?
3% of bachelor’s degrees are awarded to women in engineering and computer science. 32% of women switch out of STEM degree programs in college. There were approximately 34,000 engineering certificates awarded to women in 2015, as opposed to 127,000 awarded to men in that same year.
(H3) How many female engineers are there in the US?
The most recent compilation is from the National Society of Professional Engineers in 2004. They approximated that there were 192,900 female engineers in the US. It’s noted in another study by the society that the number of female engineers increased by 12,000 between the years 2000 and 2009. Based on those numbers, and the continued increased in women earning degrees in STEM fields, it’s likely that there are over 200,000 female engineers in the US in 2020.
(H3) What percent of female undergraduates in the US have engineering degrees?From 2015-2016, almost 20% of female undergraduate students in the U.S. had engineering degrees. In 2017 there were over 40,000 bachelor’s degrees awarded to women in fields of engineering and computer science.
(H2) Women in engineering jobs
Some of the most popular areas of study for women in engineering are mechanical, chemical, computer science, biomedical and civil. A recent study found that 80% of female engineers are happy with their career choice. 98% find their job rewarding.
Unfortunately, many women leave their engineering careers. There are roughly 2.5 million women in the U.S. with STEM degrees. 27% of those women have left their engineering career. 25% did so to spend more time with their family.
It can be difficult for both women and men to return to an engineering career later in life after they have taken a break from the profession. Engineers can help restart their careers by:
(H3) Taking strategic volunteer roles. Engineers looking to return to work can reach out to their town and ask if there are engineering projects that they can provide volunteer help for. This could involve reviewing blueprints or engineering proposals for town projects.
(H3) Keep up their skill set. Online courses are one-way for engineers to keep their skills sharp while on a professional hiatus. Engineers returning to work should mention these courses in their cover letter when applying for jobs.
(H3) Attending conferences or professional organizations. This is a great way to reengage with engineering and build a professional network. Engineers returning to work can see what trends and changes have happened in the industries since they left.
[Quotes from RTX D&I. Information about Re-Empower Program]