As a small, minority business enterprise, ORB Engineering understands the value of diversity in the workforce, especially in engineering. Engineering is surrounded by stereotypes that lead many to believe it is a male only job, but ORB wants to prove those stereotypes wrong both in practice and by highlighting some of the great female engineers of the past who helped make engineering into what it is today.
Women have been inventors and innovators long before schools started handing out engineering degrees. Colleges would not award a woman with an engineering degree in the 1800s, but rather with a certificate of proficiency. As such, many women practiced engineering with a certificate. One of these women was Sarah Guppy (1770–1852), an Englishwoman who patented a design for bridge foundations.
The first University to award an engineering’s bachelor’s degree for women was University of California, Berkeley. Elizabeth Bragg was the recipient of a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1876, becoming the first female engineer in the United States according to the Society of Women Engineers.
Another successful but unaccredited engineer was Emily Warren Roebling. She is recognized as managing the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and was the first person to cross the bridge at its opening ceremony in 1883. Roebling’s husband, Washington Roebling, worked as the chief engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge project until he fell ill of decompression sickness. Upon her husband’s illness, Emily Warren Roebling assumed her husband’s duties at the project site, and taught herself about material properties, cable construction, calculating catenary curves, and more (American Society of Civil Engineering).
Women like Emily Warren Roebling and Elizabeth Bragg led the way too many schools changing their policies and allowing women to study and receive engineering degrees. After World War II, more women started to enter the work force and the STEM fields. This led schools to open more co-education classrooms to allow women to study engineering with men. The founding of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in 1950 made even more progress.
Despite the leaps and bounds made, there is still room for growth. As of 2012, the number of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to women was 18.9% according to the American Society for Engineering Education. Also, in 2009, women comprised 48% of the total workforce, but only 14% of the engineering workforce. There are many was to increase the number of women in engineering, one of which is promoting interest in STEM classes and fields at a young age. Our intern, Kyra Thompson, frequently volunteers throughout central Florida through the many organizations she is involved in at school. She helps to generate awareness about STEM education and encourage others to pursue a career in the STEM fields. Our project manager and engineer, Lizandra Gonzalez, also helps break any stereotypes by providing excellent engineering solutions and drawings. As we head into the future we hope for even more diversity and inclusion in this awesome field.
More to come soon.