Female engineers still in the minority, but numbers continue growing

Female engineers still in the minority, but numbers continue growing
The number of women in engineering fields continues to grow. (Getty Images)

Aureale Vann will celebrate International Women in Engineering Day Tuesday as one of thousands of females around the world excelling in a profession still dominated by males.

The fourth year of the international recognition marks a time when the percentage of female and minority engineers is steadily rising. The celebration originated in the United Kingdom in 2014 as a national event on the 95th anniversary of the Women’s Engineering Society. The society had formed at the end of World War I, when women in England were denied the opportunity to continue in engineering after they had filled in for men gone to battle.

Aureale Vann

Vann has worked at Alabama Power since graduating from Auburn University in 2014. She believes her chosen field has “endless possibilities” for girls looking for a career, particularly for young Blacks.

“I think is important for more Black women to become engineers because young girls deserve to have positive female images to look up to,” said Vann, who works in Power Delivery-Distribution in Birmingham. “Seeing Black women excel in a male-dominated field shows young girls that they are able to do anything.”

In 1960 in the U.S., about 1% of all engineers were women. Last year, about one in five engineers were women. Recent college statistics show nearly half the engineering graduates of MIT were women, while the figure at Tuskegee University was about 40%.

Pam Boyd graduated from Auburn University in 1992 as one of three women in her class receiving electrical engineering degrees.

Pam Boyd

“Now Auburn graduates on average 20% females in the overall engineering program,” said Boyd, who is Power Delivery Technical Services general manager for Alabama Power. “Engineering is a good choice for females because we bring diversity of thought, which drives innovation and engineered solutions that fit our state and our country.”

Alabama Power sponsors programs to attract girls and minorities to engineering, such as iCan and LEAP (Lineman, Engineer and Apprentice Programs), bringing students and parents to company facilities for tours and speaker presentations. The company is a sponsor of 100 Women Strong at Auburn University, which works to recruit, retain and reward females in engineering.

“Females bring a perspective to the field that is needed to engineer solutions in the energy sector, the medical field, industry and almost any sector of business in the world,” said Boyd, who is on the advisory council for 100 Women Strong. “Working together we can engineer solutions to have a positive impact on our communities and beyond.”

The world’s largest female engineering group today is the 70-year-old Society of Women Engineers, with about 42,000 members. It was formed in the U.S. after World War II for the same reasons the Women’s Engineering Society was formed in 1919, as American women who did the jobs of men who went to war were not allowed the same professional opportunities at the end of the worldwide conflict.

International Women in Engineering Day is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women and focus attention on the career opportunities available to girls. It continues celebrating the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world.

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