2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Jessica Landon

As a woman and feminist currently pursuing an engineering degree, I’ve always been aware of the
imbalance between men and women in STEM fields. However, it wasn’t until I was hired as an
engineering intern at a local manufacturing plant that it became clear to me just how large that
imbalance actually is. From being one of only two women consistently present at daily production
meetings to the swimsuit calendars adorning the walls of one too many offices, suffice it to say the gap
became blatantly obvious. This firsthand experience of the divide between men and women in STEM has
given me a renewed passion to fight gender stereotypes and encourage women to enter STEM fields.
Most current efforts to improve representation in STEM fields consist of female-targeted initiatives to
introduce young women to science and math and increase their interest in STEM jobs. While this has no
doubt been effective, I don’t think it is women’s lack of interest that’s causing the gender imbalance. I
think the key to improving female representation in the STEM industry lies in educating both men and
women, of all ages, on the stereotypes associated with women in STEM fields. Most of these
stereotypes are subconsciously ingrained in our society, so spreading awareness will help abolish them
and make women feel more comfortable choosing a career in STEM.

I propose an ad campaign to spread awareness about the stigma and stereotypes faced by women trying
to pursue STEM careers. The ads could be posted to social media apps, as well as billboards, bus stops,
city buses, etc. to allow for the campaign to reach all age demographics. One of the things that I think
will help improve representation is having female role models in STEM that young (or even grown)
women can look up to. For this reason, I think each ad should feature a headshot of an influential
woman in STEM, such as Hypatia, James Barry, Marie Curie, Emmy Noether, Grace Hopper, or Sally Ride.
Special attention should be given to women of colour and LGBTQ+ women in the industry. I picture the
campaign having a gritty and edgy brand with defiant headlines, and each ad would link to a blog post
that would detail the life and challenges faced by the woman pictured. The post would also debunk and
address a common stereotype that women in the STEM industry face. Some examples include reminding
people that an assertive woman should not be seen as “unlikable” and that it is okay for a woman to live
a career-oriented life as opposed to raising a family. It could bring awareness to the “territorial and
hierarchical” segregation that make women hesitant to enter STEM fields and encourage them to defy
the social norm.

There are certainly obstacles that would be encountered in trying to implement this ad campaign, the
first being lack of funds for ad space and marketing expertise. However, I believe that trying to increase
the representation of women in STEM jobs is an important enough issue to warrant grant funding, and
that we could find an organization to back the cause. The second obstacle would be making sure the ad
campaign takes off; in order for it to make a significant impact, the ad campaign would have to become
popular at least nationally. I think branding the campaign as edgy and defiant as opposed to educational
will get people’s attention and make the campaign more memorable.

I believe that abolishing the stereotypes faced by women in STEM is the key to improving representation
in the industry, and that both men and women of all ages should be aware of these stereotypes. I think
this ad campaign would be a great way to tackle this issue so that the future will hold no stigma for
women in the STEM industry.