According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the number of women earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering has increased almost twenty times in the past 40 years, though women's participation remains well below that of men in all fields of engineering.
Though still lagging, this steadily growing trend is encouraging, especially when taking into account the fact that by 2020, nearly half of the U.S. workforce will be Millennials. After years of being in the minority, the industry is finally heading in the right direction and narrowing the all-too-familiar gender gap in engineering.
Tracing back to before my professional career began when I was pursuing an engineering degree in college, to finding myself a decade later sitting in technical meetings, every step that I have taken along the course of my engineering career was dominated by men. By the time I received my first job offer and began my career in the aerospace industry, I was well used to being the only girl in the room, as I was the lone female in the classroom in quite a few lectures throughout my studies. After years of working as an engineer, the gender imbalance in almost every meeting had become routine. I had come to the conclusion that I would always be the minority in my field, and that’s just the way it was- until I attended this year’s National Space Symposium. (Read more about that here.)
At the symposium, I had the opportunity to network with many of my fellow engineers in the space industry. I also had the pleasure of meeting many future engineers who are currently pursuing their degrees or who have been accepted by engineering programs at universities. It is always refreshing to see a new generation of up-and-coming professionals energized with enthusiasm and ambition for Space Exploration. I was impressed with so many hardworking intellectuals at this event, and even more impressed with how many of them were women.
Many players in the industry, including BRPH, have already begun embracing women in STEM. As a 52-year-old engineering firm, we have female engineering and design professionals in every discipline team. Our mission to strive for gender diversity can also be seen on our leadership team, with 4 female directors, 4 female principals, and 2 females on the board of directors. Overall, 27% of our staff is female. With only 20% of degreed engineers being women, we’re ahead of the industry curve and headed in the right direction. As we enter a new age of commercial aerospace exploration, I look forward to seeing the industry continue to grow in diversity as the next generation of bright minds falls in love, as I did, with the challenges and hopes this professional career can bring.