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Empowering Engineering: Celebrating Women’s Achievements and Breaking Barriers

June 5, 2024
Gareth Whyatt

As International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) approaches, it’s the perfect time to shine a spotlight on the incredible contributions of women in the engineering field. As a recruitment agency that has witnessed the industry’s transformation, we are thrilled to highlight the progress society has made while advocating for further changes in the industry. 


GREAT NEWS – There has been a rise in the number of female engineers!

The number of women entering the engineering profession has been steadily increasing over the years. According to recent reports, the percentage of women studying engineering at universities has risen by 10% in the past decade alone. This trend is a testament to the growing recognition of the importance of diversity and the industry’s efforts to create an inclusive environment. 

While the numbers are promising, there is still a lot of work to be done. According to a study by SWE, “Only 9% of mechanical engineers are female compared to 35% of environmental engineers”. Women remain underrepresented in many engineering disciplines, such as mechanical and electrical engineering. By encouraging more young girls to pursue STEM education and providing support throughout their educational journey, we can ensure a stronger pipeline of talented women engineers. 


Let’s celebrate the fact that female engineers have had notable achievements in recent years.

Women engineers have played a pivotal role in shaping the world around us. From Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood actress who co-invented a frequency-hopping technology that laid the foundation for Wi-Fi, to Mary Anderson, the inventor of windshield wipers, women engineers have made groundbreaking contributions that have improved our lives in countless ways. 

Women in the engineering field have continued to make significant contributions to innovation and technological advancements. Here are a few examples of women who have recently invented noteworthy technologies: 


  • Dr. Nergis Mavalvala: In 2016, Dr. Mavalvala, an astrophysicist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), played a key role in the detection of gravitational waves. Her groundbreaking work contributed to the development of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), a sophisticated instrument that opened a new window into the study of the universe. 


  • Dr. Frances Arnold: In 2018, Dr. Arnold became the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her pioneering work in the field of directed evolution of enzymes. Her research revolutionized the way scientists design and engineer proteins, enabling the creation of more efficient and sustainable industrial processes, including the production of biofuels and pharmaceuticals. 


  • Dr. Debbie Sterling: In 2012, Dr. Sterling founded GoldieBlox, a company that develops engineering and construction toys for young girls. Her aim was to break gender stereotypes and encourage girls to develop an interest in engineering from a young age. GoldieBlox’s innovative products have gained popularity and have been instrumental in inspiring a new generation of female engineers. 


  • Dr. Sheila Nirenberg: Dr. Nirenberg, a neuroscientist and professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, invented a breakthrough technology called the “bionic eye.” Her invention involves using a combination of electronics and software algorithms to bypass damaged photoreceptor cells in the retina and directly stimulate the optic nerve, providing hope for individuals with degenerative eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa. 


  • Dr. Danielle Wood: As a space engineer and director of the Space Enabled Research Group at MIT, Dr. Wood has focused on using space technology to address sustainable development challenges on Earth. She co-invented a technique called “Small Satellite Systems for Sustainable Development” that leverages inexpensive, small satellites to collect data and monitor various environmental and societal factors, aiding in disaster response, resource management, and urban planning. 


These are only a few examples of remarkable female engineers that have been at the forefront of technological advancements, infrastructure development, and innovation. By providing young girls with visible role models and showcasing the diverse range of opportunities within engineering, we can empower them to challenge societal stereotypes and explore their potential in this exciting field. 


Recruiters – Listen up.

Here is what we can do to break barriers in the field of engineering for women.

Although progress has been made, there are still significant challenges women face in the engineering industry. Gender biases, lack of representation in leadership roles, and unconscious bias in recruitment processes are hurdles that need to be addressed. It is crucial for organizations and recruiters to actively promote diversity and inclusion, creating a level playing field for all aspiring engineers. 


  • Eliminate bias in recruitment processes: Recruiters should be vigilant in recognizing and addressing biases that may exist in job descriptions, candidate evaluation, and interview processes. By using gender-neutral language, focusing on skills and qualifications, and implementing blind resume screening techniques, they can ensure a fair and unbiased selection process. 


  • Build diverse candidate pipelines: Actively seek out and engage with diverse talent pools, including women engineers, through targeted outreach efforts. This can involve participating in career fairs, networking events, and professional organizations that specifically cater to women in engineering. Building partnerships with universities and organizations that promote gender diversity in STEM fields can help attract a more diverse pool of candidates. 


  • Offer mentorship and sponsorship programs: By establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs within their organizations recruiters can support women engineers at various stages of their careers. Pairing female engineers with experienced professionals who can provide guidance, support, and opportunities for growth can help bridge the gender gap and empower women to thrive in their engineering roles. 


  • Promote inclusive company culture: Recruiters can actively promote and advocate for an inclusive company culture that values diversity and provides equal opportunities for all employees. This can include implementing flexible work arrangements, parental leave policies, and programs that support work-life balance. By showcasing a commitment to diversity and inclusion, recruiters can attract and retain top female engineering talent. 


  • Collaborate with educational institutions: Recruiters can collaborate with universities and technical schools to promote engineering as a viable career option for women. Women are more likely to enter engineering field if they feel that they are represented. This can involve participating in career panels, offering internships or co-op programs, and providing scholarships or financial assistance to female engineering students. By establishing strong partnerships with educational institutions, recruiters can actively contribute to building a pipeline of talented women engineers.  


By actively seeking out talented women engineers, offering equal opportunities for career growth and advancement, and addressing biases in the recruitment process, we can overcome these barriers and build a more inclusive engineering community. It is through diversity that we can unlock innovation, creativity, and problem-solving skills needed to tackle the complex challenges of the future. 

As INWED approaches, let us celebrate the achievements of women engineers and acknowledge the progress we have made in creating a more inclusive industry, not just for the day but beyond. And let us also remember that there is still work to be done. By challenging biases, and empowering women in engineering, we can create a brighter future where every aspiring engineer, regardless of gender, has an equal opportunity to thrive. 

Let us continue to advocate for change, inspire future generations, and build a more inclusive and dynamic engineering community together. 

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About The Author

Gareth Whyatt

After 12 years’ experience within the industry predominantly focusing on Operations and Supply Chain, founding The Sterling Choice has provided me with the opportunity to take a step back and focus on my passion for developing people and teams! As the self-proclaimed Head of Training I love seeing people develop and grow through the recruitment ranks and ultimately achieving both their personal and business goals.

For me The Sterling Choice is all about fun, results and collective success

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