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Is Social Impact the Key to Getting More Women Involved in Engineering?

SWE members discuss whether more women might explore engineering as a career if the social impact of STEM jobs were more widely communicated.
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How to Attract Female Engineers,” a New York Times op-ed published last month, caused a stir in the engineering community when it became one of the publication’s most widely circulated articles online. The article’s author, Lina Nilsson (who has a Ph.D in biomedical engineering) suggested there could be some merit to the idea that women are more likely to pursue careers in engineering when the work has a greater social impact. When a follow-up article by Shana Lebowitz appeared in Business Insider found its way to SWE’s Facebook page, SWE members joined the growing debate surrounding Nilsson’s thought-provoking solution to the long-standing issue.

“I think that is one solution to a complex problem. How do you keep the female who feels she is making a difference but feels unsupported by her teachers/employers? Love of your work alone won’t keep you there; got to also love the culture of the place you work at.” -Suzanna C.

“I’ve been an engineer for 18 years. I understand several of the reasons why women would want to leave engineering.” -Mooney M.

“Here’s a suggestion-stop making some feel disposable after 35! All this talk about younger employees (who had more access to STEM education than women 35-40 did growing up). Create opportunities for *older workers* and you will not be sorry.” -Elizabeth H.

“The idea the article proposes is just a start. We are all aware of the ‘leaky STEM pipeline’ analogy-getting kids (regardless of gender) interested in engineering isn’t enough. Getting them to stay interested (and motivated) enough to complete their degrees and stay in the work force is where the real challenge lies.” -Aditi. R.

“Complaining does not get the job done. We need to unite and get new engineering functions to increase women life support like washing machines, stoves, refrigerators, home monitoring and health improvement. God knows who can do the great will of engineering and science into social use. Listen for that voice to perform the public needs.” -Mary P.

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