For almost a decade, International Women in Engineering Day has been recognized around the world on June 23rd. Launched in the UK by the Women’s Engineering Society, INWED began in 2014 as the WES celebrated its 95th anniversary.
What is International Women in Engineering Day? This celebration highlights the remarkable achievements of women in every area of engineering and highlights the incredible societal strides we’ve made thanks to females who broke barriers in STEM globally.
At Thimble.io, we always pump the brakes to recognize and celebrate diversity in engineering and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to high-five the incredible females making life better for us all. In addition to commemorating INWED, we also like to draw awareness to the gender disparity, albeit it ever so slightly shrinking, in some engineering sectors.
We aim to inspire young women in middle and high school, foster their confidence, and continually showcase the success stories of fellow girls and women in engineering. By sharing the stories and experiences of women in engineering, we hope to encourage more girls to pursue careers in this dynamic and high-impact workforce.
Celebrating Achievements of Women in Engineering.
Women throughout history have been more than successful in making historical contributions to engineering. They are more than successful – they are a powerhouse! Females have been making behind-the-scenes changes to our world for centuries, and it’s time to give credit where credit is due. These women who find themselves filling engineering roles have battled biases and stereotypes that told them they didn’t belong. (According to the Society of Women Engineers, only 15% of the global engineering workforce in 2020 were women.)
Historically, there are plenty of women of note in engineering. We’d like to highlight a few:
Edith Clarke – An Electrifying Example
Edith Clarke was breaking down barriers before we knew what barriers were. She was the first woman to graduate from MIT with a master’s in electrical engineering, and would eventually go on to be recognized as one of, if not the first professional female electrical engineer in America.
Clarke invented a special kind of calculator, which helped electrical engineers solve equations commonly used in understanding power lines. This calculator was dubbed “The Clarke Calculator” She was also one of the brains behind the development and installation of the turbines on the Hoover Dam. In 1954, Edith was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society of Women Engineers. She passed away in 1959. Members posthumously inducted her into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Mary Jackson – Hidden in Engineering
Mary W. Jackson was a 1942 graduate of the Hampton Institute. She majored in mathematics and physical science. She spent time as a teacher, a bookkeeper, and a receptionist before she ended up as NASA’s first black, female aeronautical engineer in 1958. Her contributions were largely hidden and often chalked up to the work of men. Sound familiar? Mary Jackson was one of the women that the hit Hollywood movie “Hidden Figures” was based upon, alongside Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan.
Mary Jackson contributed more to girls in STEM than her own record of success. She was intentional about showing young girls that they too could get to where she was. She worked hard to promote females in the STEM workforce through her position as Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s Federal Women’s Program Manager. NASA even named its Washington, DC headquarters after Mary Jackson in February of 2021.
Ada Lovelace – The World’s First Programmer?
Ada Lovelace was born in the early 19th century. She was an English mathematician known to have collaborated with mathematician Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, a precursor to the modern computers we know today. In 1843, she translated an article about Babbage’s Analytical Engine by Luigi Menabrea and supplemented it with her own extensive notes, which included an algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers. These notes are considered the first computer program ever written.
Her contributions went beyond early programming. She recognized that machines could manipulate symbols and not just numbers, foreseeing the concept of AI. Her work laid the foundation for the field of computer science, though it would be decades before her ideas were more widely recognized. Who, in 1843, could have foreseen the impact computers would have on our lives today? Her pioneering work has left its mark on the field of technology and her legacy continues to inspire women to pursue careers in STEM and engineering.
Though Clarke, Jackson, and Lovelace are great examples of historical female engineers, there are contemporary examples serving to inspire today’s young women in STEM.
Amy Elliott – 3-D Printing Connoseiur
You may recognize the name Amy Elliott if you were ever a fan of Discovery Channel’s reality TV series, “The Big Brain Theory” where she placed 2nd out of 10 other engineers competing. Elliott majored in mechanical engineering at Tennessee Tech University and got her PhD from Virginia Tech. Fun fact: Amy was the project lead for the world’s very first’ 3-D printing vending machine dubbed “The DreamVendor”.
Elliott is now in Research and Development at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility where she meets with industry leaders from across the nation as a consultant for 3-D printing technologies, something she is a bit of an expert in! Elliott sits alongside a myriad of fellow female STEM success stories as an AAAS If/Then Ambassador and can serve as an intentional inspiration to young women interested in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Tiera Fletcher – Inspirational Rocket Scientist
Tiera Fletcher is a modern-day superhero for girls in engineering. She’s made remarkable contributions in the field of aerospace engineering. Hailing from Virginia, Fletcher knew she had a passion for science and engineering when she was still in middle school. She earned a degree in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
She spent time flexing her engineering muscles at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and played a pivotal role in the design and development of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. She was part of the team responsible for designing the Mars 2020 rover’s heat shield, protecting the rover during its entry into the Martian atmosphere. Fletcher’s innovative work showcased her ability to tackle complex engineering challenges and succeed. Fletcher is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM fields. She actively encourages young women and underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in engineering. It’s the growth of contemporary engineers like Fletcher who are serving as inspiring role models for young girls and women globally.
Why International Women In Engineering Day? The Importance of Diversity in Engineering
International Women in Engineering Day serves as a reminder of the importance of gender diversity. The benefits of diversity in engineering are numerous, but the most obvious is the idea that diverse perspectives in engineering design and problem-solving lead to diverse innovation. There are dozens of organizations and societies specifically dedicated to advancing women in STEM and engineering: Society of Women Engineers, If/Then Collection, and Women in Engineering Proactive Network to name a few.
A 2020 study of women in STEM occupations revealed that the collective effort to increase girls’ confidence in STEM areas, in general, seems like it’s working. There are more women in STEM-related fields, but the data still points to the fact that only 1 in every 4 STEM jobs is filled by a female.
There are countless barriers to engaging girls in STEM. It’s why celebrating International Women in Engineering Day is so important to us. Between self-image and confidence issues, to weak math identity – girls are facing an uphill battle to succeed in Engineering. Race and Class further complicate a girl’s position in the rat race to the STEM workforce. If we took ALL of the STEM doctorate degrees earned by women, only a fraction of those degrees (6.7%) are earned by women of color. So what do we do?
Set Stereotypes Ablaze as We Inspire the Engineers of Tomorrow.
What can we do to encourage girls to embrace their interests in STEM subjects? How can we use International Women in Engineering Day as a launch pad to inspire young women to hang tight to their passions and never give up on their dreams? At Thimble.io, we’re committed to helping our female students overcome obstacles, and recognize engineering and other STEM professions as viable options for their future. In what ways can we stand hand in hand, for future female innovators?
- Expose Girls to STEM at a young age
- Begin this in preschool with games that promote computational thinking. Allow girls to play pretend with chemistry experiments and invest in story-books like The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires. Let girls see themselves as engineers and inventors.
- Support STEM Learning opportunities outside of the classroom
- Don’t be afraid to sign up for the community college STEM camp, or throw a science-themed birthday party. Plant a garden. Approach a problem with logic. Use engineering design in informal life activities like building a fort.
- Speak to their souls
- The power of words for girls in STEM is unimaginable. Tell the young females in your life about their abilities, their potential, and your unwavering belief that they can do and become whatever she so desires.
How Thimble.io is bringing Engineering into the lives of thousands of young girls globally
Thimble.io kits are being used by middle and high school girls in schools, afterschool programming, non-profit student groups, robotics camps, and even low-income schools in India. The kits are designed to pique interest with quick wins and build a solid engineering and coding foundation with a carefully curated curriculum that takes girls from the very foundation of engineering to more complex and involved projects.
All of the kits are hands-on, project-based learning. These girls aren’t just reading about a female engineer in a textbook. They are becoming engineers themselves – coding alarm clocks, night lights, and door alarms and then showcasing their builds for peers, teachers, parents, and leaders.
International Women in Engineering Day reminds us at Thimble.io of the importance of empowering young women and providing them with the tools and opportunities they need to thrive in engineering. We are dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion in STEM. It makes us proud to be doing that impactful work every day, in all corners of the globe.
International Women in Engineering Day serves as a powerful reminder that women have been instrumental in shaping the world of engineering. By celebrating their achievements, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and innovative future. We are proud to be a part of this movement by providing hands-on learning to thousands of girls. Together, we can bridge the gender gap in engineering and create a world where all aspiring engineers have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of gender. For us, International Women in Engineering Day is every day.
Schedule a demo of our innovative kits today and discover how Thimble.io can help your organization or school district inspire the female engineers of tomorrow. Let’s work together to create a future where all young women feel confident and capable of pursuing their dreams in engineering.