Women In Engineering?

In the May edition, we published a Bob Pease column that asked the question in true Pease style: "What's this woman scientist stuff anyhow?" For those of you who didn't catch it in the issue, go take a look at http://europe.elecdesign.com/Articles/ArticleID/10425/10425.html.

I mention this not to embark on any discussion here about whether the column made some strong well-reasoned arguments to support its premise or whether the whole thing had a chauvinistic tone ill-befitting an unbiased publication like Electronic Design Europe. What I am interested in is your view about the column's proposition that men are more suited to engineering and science disciplines than women. Email them to me. But beware. Make sure that the points you make are well argued because the plan is to publish them.

Here in Europe, there is a strong tradition of women working in engineering. Back in 1919, the Women's Engineering Society was formed in England and it has done a good job in promoting and encouraging women into engineering jobs. It has also worked hard to change some of the prejudiced and blinkered views that have discouraged women from becoming engineers.

One of the members of the Woman's Engineering Society, Petra Goodwin, had some interesting points to make about woman in engineering when she addressed the IEE. She said that there are two reasons why companies need to worry about the lack of representation of the female sex in science, engineering, and technology. Firstly, organisations need the best. Stereotypical thinking leads us to ignore at least half the potential candidates for recruitment into these careers. According to Goodwin, women account for about 14% of engineering degree students, 5% of technicians, and 2% of craft students. Good engineers are good engineers no matter what their gender.

Here are some women who would certainly agree with Goodwin that following engineering, physics, and chemistry-based career paths can be very satisfying

Maria Sklodowska (later to become M Curie), born 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. Became famous for her research into radioactivity and was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

Randi Altschul, who in November of 1999 was issued a series of patents for the world's first disposable cell phone.

Patricia Billings, who received a patent in 1997 for a fire-resistant building material called Geobond. It is currently being sold in more than 20 markets worldwide.

Edith Flanigen, born 1929, New York, U.S. One of the most inventive chemists of all time. She has earned 102 U.S. patents for her innovations in petroleum research.

Grace Hopper (1906-1992). Developed a common language with which computers could communicate called Common Business-Oriented Language, or COBOL. And there are many more.

Let me know what you think. Are males and females equal when it comes to engineering potential? I look forward to your emails.

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