Have No Fear: Women in Engineering Are Here

Nicole Darling, Staff Writer

Throughout my education, I’ve always known that women are the minority in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). I’ve never let it affect my education, but I was surprised when I took my first engineering class this semester. There were about 25 people, and only three were girls. One girl dropped the class in the first few weeks.

It’s shocking how few women there are in engineering. According to the U.S. Census (Christnacht, Anthony Martinez and Cheridan. “Women Are Nearly Half of U.S. Workforce but Only 27% of STEM Workers.” Census.gov, 8 Oct. 2021) , only 27% of STEM workers are women. I wondered what it’s like to be a woman in engineering. Do you get treated differently? Do you have the same opportunities as men? Do you have to prove yourself?

I was able to interview a female engineer, Stephanie Wasserberg, to get some answers these questions. Wasserberg is a electrical engineer at Motorola Solutions. She graduated from Illinois Tech with a degree in electrical engineering. At Motorola Solutions she works on motor radio systems, public safety, and information technology.

First, I wanted to know who inspired Stephanie to pursue engineering. After all, in school, we don’t learn about successful female engineers. Having role models is so important, but what do you do if you don’t have any? Luckily, Stephanie had her father, who is also an electrical engineer. She remembers watching him work, building cars and solving problems. She wanted to do what he did, to solve problems using logical thinking, analysis, and teamwork. 

Of course, there are moments when pursuing engineering seems impossible. You don’t feel like you can or should do it. During high school, Stephanie talked to her counselor about pursuing engineering. He discouraged her from joining STEM, but her father’s encouragement convinced her to pursue it anyway.

There has always been a minority of women in engineering. Working like this can make you feel isolated and unappreciated. Women in engineering often feel the need to prove themselves, as Stephanie had to in college.


What is it like for a woman in engineering?

In engineering, most of the work is done in teams. Everyone has a specialty that they use to work together to solve problems. When Stephanie first started working, she was put in a team of 10 people. There were three women on this team, including her. They considered themselves lucky. Those were great numbers back in the day.

The biggest challenge for a female engineer is balancing life and work. For example, someone might go on maternity leave, and later in life, when you have to raise your children, you have to take time off of work.

Stephanie wishes her bosses hadn’t made assumptions during this period. She fell behind her other co-workers. She missed out on promotions because her bosses were worried about any commitment issues she might have had. 

According to SWE (“Earnings Gap.” Society of Women Engineers, 29 Aug. 2022), women in engineering get paid about 80-89% of what a man makes. And the number is even lower for women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Many women also drop out of engineering: about 40% of women who have a degree in engineering, according to Harvard Business Review (Silbey, Susan S. “Why Do So Many Women Who Study Engineering Leave the Field?” Harvard Business Review, 23 Aug. 2016,)). 


What can we do to get more women to join engineering? 

There are organizations such as SWE (Society of Women in Engineering). SWE is a group of women in engineering, whose goal is to encourage and help one other, share their stories, help each other find jobs, coach, and learn from other women. They have programs, events, and seminars to achieve these goals.

Stephanie is part of this organization. She will be attending a big event in Houston, Texas, from October 20-22, 2022. It’s called WE22 (Women in Engineering-2022). There are also other opportunities to get young girls involved in engineering, such as camps, trips to labs, and programs such as Introduce a Girl to Engineering. Most colleges also have on-campus programs.

The most important thing is to encourage girls to pursue engineering. You can do this by celebrating and sharing stories of successful engineers. Teachers can encourage girls to like engineering and show them how cool engineering can be. Maybe one day there will be more women in engineering, and we’ll know their stories.