2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Ken Barnes

Women are steadily getting more involved in STEM majors throughout the world, as feminism and a strive to succeed pushes them to break the mold of society and excel at a previously male dominated field. Ever since World War II, women have been working in fields that have to do with mechanics and engineering and other STEM subjects. A large reason why they got involved with these STEM fields, is because of the rallying call of such a symbol like Rosie the Riveter, showing the need for women in those fields.

From the beginning of the STEM women’s movement, an important factor has been the exposure of it. Which is why colleges continue to push for the need of female students in STEM programs while they are recruiting. On top of that, the media is starting to show women in STEM fields, as the movement gains popularity. But the question is, “If there is so much exposure of women in STEM fields, what can possibly be done from here to improve the representation of women in STEM fields and programs?”

What, would you say, is the one thing that women in WWII had- besides war- that women in STEM programs today do not have? Is it that chipper “Yes We Can” attitude? Perhaps what it is that we are missing today is an era appropriate icon. In the WWII era, the women, who pioneered our current female STEM programs, had their icon, Rosie the Riveter. We here in 2018 do not have an icon that we can all get behind. We lack someone for our little girls to look up to and see empowerment in a still male dominated field. Rosie is outdated, and should go on to history as another icon should take her place.

We’ve had movies like Hidden Figures which have come out and shined a light on women in difficult STEM fields. But we need something more than that. A figure that you can put in schools, that teenage girls can see and feel encouraged that they can rise up in a male dominated field. A woman who can be a beacon of hope for girls, and present the idea to boys that this isn’t a field just for them. Studies have show that girls who have a strong female role model in their high school STEM related classes excelled more than girls who didn’t, and were more likely to go into STEM majors.

Making an icon takes lots of work, but it should start in colleges and high schools. Show someone like Sally Ride, physicist and former NASA astronaut, or Esther Takeuchi, one of the era’s most amazing female inventors. Use them as a role model, someone that women and girls can look up to. When women have a role model, they rise up to the occasion. And as women rise, then they will continue to raise the bar and make sure that girls in the younger generations can rise beyond that bar as well.