A study done by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee in April 2012 said men and women do not share the job market equally in engineering.
Women comprise only 14 percent of engineers in the U.S., and few are Hispanic or African American.
Fresno State’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness report for 2012 showed 164 men earned engineering bachelor’s degrees in the 2011-2012 academic year compared to 23 women. The national organization Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has a club on campus which aims to close the gap.
“Our goal is to promote female empowerment,” said SWE president Elain Moua. “We want to promote women in the technical field. We try to encourage younger girls to go into the technical field because it’s so dominated by men.”
National workshops are held every year to bring women engineers together and encourage younger women to enter the field, Moua said.
Coming from a family of engineers, Moua was already exposed to the field from a young age.
“What really turned me into engineering was my English teacher from high school,” Moua said. “Our final project was to do this ‘dream project.’ So you make a video about what you want your dream to be and mine was to build a skyscraper.”
At she began the major, it took Moua time “to get used to the manliness of the whole thing.”
It was intimidating at first, but Moua realized it was important for every woman in the field to speak up for themselves.
“You’re a girl,” she said. “You’re in this male-dominated field so you just have to learn to stick up for yourself. You just have to really get in there.”
Eventually, Moua said her female peers found themselves easing into the engineering community. She said the men started treating the women as equals.
“You forget she’s a girl sometimes,” said mechanical engineering student Anthony Kupina. “You’re studying, and you make these weird jokes or say certain things. You forget that she’s a girl and you’re like, ‘Wait a second, I didn’t mean to say that!’”
This semester, Moua saw an increase in the number of women who were freshmen in the department. With the growing number of women in the field, Moua said it’s pleasant to bump into other girls.
“It’s very nice to see other girls in the building because you’re like, ‘They do exist!’” she said.
Moua feels many women have misconceptions about engineering. Women automatically discourage themselves from venturing into the industry because they think it does not suit them, she said.
“There are a lot of things you can do with engineering,” Moua said. “I don’t think [women] see everything that you could do with engineering until they look into it. A lot has to do with asking questions like, ‘What is engineering?’”
Moua said that in order to survive the engineering field, female students have to be committed and self-motivated.
“You have to ignore the fact that there are so many guys,” she said. “You can’t let that stop you. Don’t let that scare you. Don’t let the workload scare you. You just have to really, really want it.”
Because of Kupina’s time interacting with his female peers, he feels that female engineers should be given more credit. They strive to prove themselves and their worth in a field men take for granted, he said.
“It’s just ‘whatever’ to the guys because it’s a guy thing, and everybody’s doing it,” Kupina said. “But when you see a girl surpassing you, kicking your butt in a subject or calculation, you feel like, ‘We need to get better at this.’”
John Singyee, a mechanical engineering major, said having more women creates a diverse environment, which is important in this field.
“Yeah, I get excited,” he said. “Because, ‘Wow, another girl.’ It’s a privilege that we have women in our engineering classes. I’m not sure why it’s like that, why engineering is so male dominated.”
Singyee said he also felt that engineering is about problem solving, so having more women gives another perspective.
“It gives us different perspectives because men and women will think differently,” Singyee said. “We’re biologically different so psychologically we must be a little different. It just gives more ideas, more creativity in our field. It’s something you need sometimes as an engineer.”