Girl Day 2023: What Does Being A Female Engineer Look Like?
As a part of Cyclone’s effort to celebrate Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, I’ve put together this blog for an audience who is curious about engineering, being a woman in a male dominated field, and what creativity looks like in my job. Because there are some untrue and unhelpful notions about who and what an engineer is, I invite you to reconsider what a modern engineer looks like and perhaps in the process view our industry and our world as a more welcoming place.
What does an engineer do?
There are a wide variety of disciplines engineers can specialize in from aerospace to material science. I studied architectural engineering in college because I want to help create the world I want to see. For me, that means creating a world that uses less energy (and more renewable energy), and makes efficient use of the resources our planet has to offer. It has been widely reported that buildings are responsible for about 40% of the United State’s energy consumption, and so this sector is a great place to start reducing energy consumption and improving efficiency. So, I help architects, engineers, and builders implement more sustainable equipment and design strategies.
What does a day in the life of an engineer look like?
One interesting component of my job is that my days vary widely. Some days, I translate technical concepts into easily understandable graphics for non-technical audiences. It is important for engineers to be good communicators so that we can spread the knowledge we have. Other days, I model energy consumption within a building. I start by drawing the building’s geometry, implementing appropriate mechanical systems and lighting, and then compare the end result with one that would pass code. By making this comparison, I’m able to see how much more (or less!) energy efficient the building I’m modeling is compared to a typical building. Other days, I’m learning new skills. I love going on site visits to better understand how mechanical systems work in relation to each other and at what scale these systems are needed to keep a building comfortable. For instance, I was recently baffled when I went on a tour of my first high rise building and saw fans about the size of my home were required to operate about 30 floors. I hope this sounds as cool as it was, but if not, you’ll just have to see it for yourself one day!
What does being a “girl engineer” look like?
As a woman in the engineering field, I’ve learned the importance of standing up for yourself. As a student, one naturally progresses from one year to the next by passing their classes. However, in the professional world, I’ve learned it’s exclusively up to me to decide what job is best for me, what my value is, and what unique skills I have. Then, I have the sometimes daunting task of explaining all of that to someone else to get a new job, a promotion, or a raise (or sometimes all three!) Being a woman in this field also necessitates having a lot of confidence. In order to advocate for myself and convey the importance of my work to potential employers and clients, I’ve grown comfortable with public speaking, making mistakes, and saying “I don’t know, but I can find out” with confidence.
Why become an engineer?
The most exciting part of being an engineer is seeing the tangible impact my efforts have on my community and knowing that the world is hurting a little bit less because of what I do everyday. As an engineer, I use my creativity to influence sustainability skeptics in a greener direction and communicate technical ideas in approachable ways. From my perspective, creativity is the most important skill one has to bring to the engineering field. We want folks who question the way things are, test out potential solutions, and iterate to continue adding value to the world around them. As an adolescent artist and a girl, I didn’t see myself in the engineering world, but I then realized that someone with a bit of a different perspective is exactly what is needed in this field. So, I challenge you to identify problems in the world around you and ask yourself what you have to offer to become a part of the solution.