Women in engineering day myth busters

Women in engineering day

Engineers bust common myths about their careers for women in engineering day.

From suits and high heels to hijabs and yes, even the odd hardhat, what women in engineering wear to work is as varied as the careers in engineering. This women in engineering day we asked some engineers what they love about their jobs and what myths and stereotypes they’d like to bust.

Women in engineering day Jillian Kilby
The Infrastructure Collaborative CEO and founder Jillian Kilby. Credit Clancy Job

Jillian Kilby, John Monash Scholar, founder of The Infrastructure Collaborative

Jillian splits her time between Dubbo in regional Australia and Silicon Valley and spends more time advising government than gearing up in high vis vests.

“In my job, I’m a civil engineer, but a lot of the work I do is before the projects are shovel-ready. So before construction starts, I’m helping stakeholders understand the steps of the process, get funding, and procure services to take the project a step forward. I help multiple stakeholders work together on their regional projects.

“Engineering is very much a problem solving skillset, and I think there’s a quality about engineers where they intrinsically value problem solving. So the reward is not the salary. The reward is the quality of work and the quality of outcomes.

Why is it a stereotype that engineering isn’t for women?

“There’s possibly some legacy of men traditionally being engineers, just like men have traditionally served in the army.

“That’s a legacy view. It’s an old fashioned view that it’s not for women, and that’s obviously holding more women back from going into it. But the reality is the future is high tech, high touch, both in engineering and health, in technology, and women are able to provide both high tech and high touch skillsets.”

What engineering myth would you like to bust?

“When I was at school, there was a real push to bring someone into the classroom in a high vis vest with a hard hat and do a bridge building competition or a rocket launching competition.

“I don’t think that attracts women into engineering. I always say, “Send in the suits.” Send in me or someone else who wears a beautiful suit with high heels – someone who sits in boardrooms with glass windows overlooking Sydney Harbour and tell the women how fabulous a career can be, contributing to the conversation at the highest level behind closed doors.”

Read more: How volunteering can kickstart you engineering career

Women in engineering Day - Lina Qasem
Lina Qasem, founder of Robofun

Lina kickstarted her own business as a founder of an educational startup focussed on engineering.

“As a woman in software engineering, I feel there is no limit for the imagination, creativity, and innovation in this field. I feel motivated all the time to discover new technologies and upskill myself to adapt to the fast-changing field where it is never boring. Also, It’s really rewarding when you see your work come to life. For example, when you see the building that you designed is built, the robot that you built is moving, and the app that you programmed is working.”

Why is it a stereotype that engineering isn’t for women?

“Sadly, because of the lower levels of self-confidence and self-belief among young girls who have the wrong perception that STEM fields are too difficult.”

What engineering myth would you most like to bust?

“STEM fields are anti-social and just for nerds.”

Want the job? Design smart spaces and innovative cities

Women in Engineering day Ellen Moon

Ellen Moon, course director, Bachelor of Environmental Engineering, Deakin Uni

Ellen works with students and lecturers at Deakin University in Melbourne and is one of Science and Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM, and sent us these responses for women in engineering day.

“Engineering is all about creativity and problem-solving. It’s incredibly rewarding to take a project from start to finish – from identifying the problem, exploring ways to solve it, and implementing the best idea. While you don’t always solve the problem first time, you learn important lessons along the way, and hopefully at least improve the situation.

“When I was younger I wanted to make a positive difference in the world. Engineering (and especially my field, environmental engineering) has definitely allowed me to do that. As a global community, we are facing some pretty big problems at the moment, and engineers have a clear role to play in addressing those.”

Why is it a stereotype that engineering isn’t for women?

“I honestly don’t know! Some of the best problem-solvers I know are women. Historically though, engineering has been a male-dominated field.

“Things are changing, as more and more young women study STEM subjects at school and look to use those skills in their careers. This has caused a culture-shift – engineering firms are realising that if they want the best and brightest engineers working for them (which might include women, people from culturally diverse backgrounds, people with disabilities) they have to make them feel included. This type of inclusive workplace culture ultimately benefits everyone in the organisation.”

What engineering myth would you most like to bust?

“That all engineers wear a hard hat and work on-site. Engineering is an incredibly diverse career, and depending on what you enjoy (whether that’s number crunching, creating designs, leading teams, or something more hands-on) and where you want to work (in the office, in a lab or workshop, or out on a site) there’s a role that will suit you.

“I personally have never worn a hard hat, but my current job is a mix of field work, collecting soil and water samples, working in a lab to analyse those samples, and writing reports & making recommendations. I personally like that variety, but as an engineer you’ll have the ability to shape your own career in whatever direction you want to go.”

Read more about saving the planet with environmental engineering jobs

Heather Catchpole

Author: Heather Catchpole

Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs

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