Breaking Stereotypes: International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

With only a quarter of STEM workers female, there is a greater push for girls to enter the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Technology advancements are taking place rapidly and to ensure the developments suit all types of people, women are needed in the field. They are currently majorly underrepresented which is a shame!

Why is there such a major underrepresentation and why should the number of women in the field increase? For too long children have been raised with the idea that boys are naturally better at Maths and Science while girls are better at languages and arts. I do believe these ideas are slowly changing and adapting to truer conclusions.

Ada Lovelace is considered the world’s first computer programmer. Decades before the first computers, she worked out how to use the Analytical Engine to perform calculations – the first algorithms. How cool is that?! If that doesn’t impress you, consider Stephanie Kwolek. She’s another female engineer who discovered the material of Kevlar. Kevlar is five-times stronger than steel by weight, and is now used for bulletproof vests and mobile phone cases.

These are just two cases of many female engineers. They showcase the ability which women have to make a huge impact in the world. So, if you can’t tell already, I am indeed trying to pitch to young girls to enter the field of ‘STEM’. But not just that, I think it’s important to know what the field entails. Although many schools are encouraging their girls to consider ‘engineering’, it still remains a mystery to many as to what the field entails.

From environmental engineering to geotechnical engineering and chemical engineering degrees, there is a wide range of options. It’s not all just about building the latest type of car. Environmental Engineering involves the study of science and engineering to improve our environment. This includes the air we breathe, the food we consume, and water. It is an engineering type which comes under ‘Civil’ engineering. Civil Engineering involves the development of infrastructure such as buildings, railways, roads construction, bridges and general construction project management.

If working with buildings and architecture isn’t your kind of thing, do not fear. Geotechnical engineering branches out into things such as Petroleum engineering, geological and nuclear engineering. Be warned, this list is not exhaustive. A final type of engineering I’d like to briefly mention is that of Chemical engineering. If you have more of a soft spot for Chemistry than Physics (like I do), the practical application of chemistry may appeal to you. This type of engineering degree involves technology that utilizes chemical reactions to solve problems. A chemical engineer creates new products, including: Cosmetics, foods, pharmaceuticals, beverages, and cleaners from raw chemicals.

If you’re still unsure, or my list of engineering examples has just prompted more questions, I’d recommend doing a google search to learn more, or to ask a Science teacher.

To finish, it should be mentioned that there are lots of engineering opportunities you can get involved in while you’re still young to see if the path of engineering is for you (this applies to all genders!). Personally I took part in the Engineering Talent 2030 competition two years in a row. The first year my team came in the top 12, which resulted in my competitive side coming out. I took part in the competition again the following year and this time we won first place! It’s a competition which asks you to go and design a product or idea which will aid in solving a current 21st century problem.

The year which my group and I won the award we designed a turbine which generated electricity from waste water - essentially it was designing a source of renewable energy. I know we’re all aware of the current climate change struggles. The year prior, my group and I designed a watch with many smart features which could be used by the elderly and vulnerable. The aim was for the watch to support these people as they went about their daily lives. As you can see, the two ideas are very different and the competition really is open to all types of ideas.

If you research for engineering opportunities or competitions in engineering you’ll be overwhelmed with projects you can take part in. Have a dabble in a few and you’ll soon get a taster for the field of work. If after all that, you decide the field of STEM isn’t for you (like I did), don’t feel that it’s been a waste of time. You’ll have learnt skills which you wouldn’t have learnt otherwise and you’ll have a better insight into STEM - which will stand you in good stead in the future.

Enjoy exploring,

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