Since the surge of feminism, women have participated greatly in almost all works of life. Though the engineering sector still has a long way to go in bridging the gender gap.
Before Engineering became a profession, women have been practising it as inventors. As far back as the 8th century, there were many women who were inventors and astronomers in the Islamic golden age.
The evolution of Engineering into a vocation has also been hastened by women.
The first programmer in the world was Ada lovelace, she invented algorithms. She worked together with Charles Babbage to produce the analytical machine.
In the programming of ENIAC during world war II a lot of women were involved, and continued in building it decades after. The invention of breakpoints – now a standard debugging tool, was championed by women.
Programming was dominated by women into the 1950’s. Nine coding languages were written by women which are: assembly language by Kathleen Booth in 1950, Address by Kateryna Yushchenko in 1955, COBOL by Grace Hopper along with other members of the Conference on Data System Languagesin 1959, FORMAC by Jean Sammet in 1962, Logo by Cynthia Solomon in 1967 with members of her team, CLU by Barbara Liskov in 1974, Smalltalk by Adele Goldberg, Diana Merry, and four main other team members at Xerox PARC in 1980, BBC BASIC by Sophie Wilson in 1981, Coq by Christine Paulin-Mohring.
Aside programming and coding, women have also contributed greatly to structural engineering. One of the greatest bridge construction designs was produced by Sara Guppy.
In mechanical engineering, women have championed the inventions of tools like Circular hand saw by Tabitha in 1812, Submarine lamp and telescope in 1845 by Sara Mather; and many other things like paper-bag-making machine, dish washer, globes locomotive chimney, life rafts, fire escapes, ironing boards, car heaters, syringe, street sweeper, windshield wiper, retractable dog leash and so on.
In the evolution of electrical appliances, it will interest you to know that the first electrical refrigerator was invented by Florence Parpart in 1914. Even electric hot water heater was invented by Ida Forbes, in 1917.
The backbone of information and communication technology today is wireless technology. This was pioneered by Hedy Lamarr. She invented wireless technology in 1941, this birthed phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.
In military engineering, women have also been major stakeholders. Bullet-proof fibres were invented by Stephanie Kwolek in 1966. This fibre has been used in weaving many bullet proof vests, saving lives on the battlefield. The technology has also been applied into production of bridge cables, canoes and frying pans.
In aviation Engineering, women have been propellers. Hydride rocket fuel was invented by Mary Morgan. This was the fuel used by America’s first satellite ever launched.
Also, the space rocket propulsion system which has been used in creation of self-propelling satellites, was invented by Yvonne Brill in 1974. Olga Gonzalez-Sanabria invented space station batteries in 1980!
Today the world is tilting towards software engineering. Do you know that the first word processor was invented by a woman? Her name is Evelyn Berezin, she did that in 1971. Also photo enhancement application used in historical pictures restoration was invented by Barbara Askins.
Only 21% of Engineers are women today, yet their contributions are enormous. Imagine a world where 50% of Engineers are women, maybe we will be working on air.
Many ladies/girls are fed with the stereotype that Engineering is sacredly masculine. Most people believe that because men are logical they fit into Engineering and women are emotional, so they fit better into humanities. This is a fallacy.
Another misconception female folks have about Engineering is that it entails lifting of heavy objects, far greater than the female strength. This is not true today, as machines have been put in place to cover those rigours. Engineering this days is more of technical expertise than manpower.
The demand for Engineers worldwide is increasing, alongside the growth in technology. If we are to meet up, then we need more female participation.
To accentuate female involvements, female Engineers should visit schools to enlighten the children on the prospect of Engineering. This is very effective as I have observed. In my secondary school days, Pharmacists visited and educated us, as a result of that single visit, more than 50 people are pharmacists from that school.
It is true that men are more available, taking no leave for maternity. Companies should bend rules to enable women to give birth and still return to work. A lot of women resign when they start having children.
To crown it, innovative competitions for ladies should be held regularly to kindle the flame of creativity in ladies. And the winners rewarded adequately.
If all this steps are followed, the involvement of more women in Engineering will not only positively impact the Engineering sector, but also boost the growth of the world’s economy.
Written by Sajini Israel . he can be reached at email@example.com