Girls in tech, STEM

Although the engineering sector is primarily male dominated, the sector actually has the potential to be an inspirational leader in equality.

If we were to define engineering, it would come down to the capability of shaping technology, which is a creative combination. Engineering is ultimately conceiving, designing and developing technology systems, their parts, and the related vertical applications.

An industry for everyone

Like many industries, the engineering sector has significantly evolved over the last few decades. Despite this, the constant core capability of an engineer is to design and build a technological framework. This characteristic should be one of the key driving forces to strive for equality. Why? Because technology is neutral, it is neither good nor bad, and is there to be tailored to assist the needs of us humans. Therefore, a profession based on technology, and on the capability of using it in the design and development stages, starts with a great advantage. Certainly, the neutrality of technology is a great responsibility for engineers, because along with their systems, they can also shape it to benefit humanity.

Essential enginnering education

At this point, education is key to largely improving the potential for equality within the sector. There is a lot of content in the education domain which can help reach this goal. The first is recognising technology as an ally of humanity, rather than a competitor. The pandemic has clearly shown all humans do not need to be afraid of technology – because it is neutral. An example of this is with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based robots, which are a major outcome of the amazing progress of engineering over the last few decases. The relationship between humans and AI-based robots should be more cooperative and thus based on a peer-to-peer approach. By educating younger generations on this, society will be much more educated around the benefits of technology.

Education on the above items can make the difference in the way engineers approach the ideation, design and development of systems and their vertical domains. The effects would then result almost automatically in a broader, deeper and more lasting equality in the field. There has never been a more important time for us to encourage education in this field, especially for women, who may feel that it is not as achievable.

Marina RuggieriAbout the author

Marina Ruggieri is an IEEE fellow and Full Professor of Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. She is co-founder and Chair of the Steering Board of the interdisciplinary Center for Teleinfrastructures (CTIF) at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. The Center focuses on the use of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for vertical applications (health, energy, cultural heritage, economics, law) by integrating terrestrial, air and space communications, computing, positioning and sensing.


Discover more for International Women in Engineering Day:

Kerrine Bryan featuredInspirational Woman: Kerrine Bryan | Award-winning Engineer and Founder of Butterfly Books

Kerrine Bryan – an award winning black female engineer and founder of Butterfly Books.

Kerrine has gone on to smash many glass ceilings to become respected in her field.

She was shortlisted in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 for notable women in business and, in 2015, she won the Precious Award for outstanding woman in STEM. Kerrine is a volunteer mentor for the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) and is an avid STEM Ambassador. It was while she was undertaking talks at various schools across the country for children about engineering and what her job entails that she became inspired to set up her independent publishing house, Butterfly Books.

In response to this, Kerrine published a series of books (My Mummy Is A Scientist, My Mummy Is An Engineer and My Mummy Is A Plumber) as a means of communicating to children a positive message about all kinds of professions, especially STEM careers, that are suffering skill gaps and diversity issues. The fourth book in the series, My Mummy Is A Farmer, launched last month – August 2018.

Read Kerrine’s full interview here


Engineering: a world that works for everyone

It seems obvious, but if we want to design a world that is meant to work for everyone, we need women in the room. But this is rarely the case.

Most offices are five degrees too cold for women, because the formula to determine their temperature was developed in the 1960s based on the metabolic resting rate of a 40-year-old, 70kg man; women’s metabolisms are slower.

Despite research showing that women are more likely to own an iPhone than men, the average smartphone is now 5.5 inches, allowing the average man to comfortably use his device one handed – but the average woman’s hand is not much bigger than the handset itself.

These are all examples from the excellent work of feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez – most famous for campaigning for better representation of women on British banknotes – who argues that the people taking the decisions that affect us all are mostly white, able-bodied men.

Read the full piece here