As your plucky “man in the workshop” I have decided to bite the bullet and step in the minefield to grab the bull by the horns. As I take a furtive glance up from my terminal I see somewhere between 10 and 20 design engineers, of these exactly 0 are female.
In fact I have worked in 5 or 6 engineering companies and the total number of female engineers I have worked with is 4. Ever since I was at college, which you can take it from me was many moons ago, the role of women in engineering has been seen as a cause for much lamenting and wringing of hands.
Today there is still much vocal concern, as can be witnessed by both public proclamations from Richard Noble and the recent furore over the use of “Booth Babes” at CES in Las Vegas. I wonder whether the lack of women is a problem that can be solved though? Perhaps women just don’t want to be engineers?
At this point I feel the need to don a philosophical tin hat and make a few statements. Firstly I am one hundred percent committed to equality, both in pay and the opportunity to pursue any career path. However I also firmly believe that recognition of the need for equality does not mean an acceptance that men and women are the same.
Secondly what I am talking about here is trends and percentages. There will always be women who want to be engineers and I think that they should be encouraged, but my thoughts relate to a possible majority. Lastly this does not mean I think that women are somehow generally incapable of being engineers, we only need look back to the last war to see large numbers of women being more than capable in every tier of our profession.
However the fact remains that we have had decades actively trying to encourage women to become engineers with seemingly little success and I cannot help but think that the differing mindset and interests of the genders may lie at the root of this. Of course I could be entirely off beam and despite the huge social changes over the past 30 years there could still be a barrier in the “nurture” stages of a girl’s life; but if I am right then funds, time and effort actively used trying to redress the balance can be seen as a waste and can be subsequently redirected.
There is a further trigger to these ruminations in that, if I look a little further down the office, our marketing department is about 10% male and 90% female. I cannot say whether this is representative of their profession but there certainly seems to be less angst about it. By the way - as regards the “Booth Babes”, I just wish some sectors of industry would grow up and move into more enlightened times.