Community Update

Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits aim to provide the resources you need to advance your social change work.

We are excited to introduce our Digital Empowerment Trainers’ Toolkit, a dynamic resource to help you bring the benefits of connecting online to women in your community. Check it out today! »

Engineering: a field worth girls attention!

Dear gals, wherever.

Maybe someone has said you engineering is not a field right for you.

They will support their claim, using a lot of numbers showing boys outnumbering girls in engineering. They will also say the gap becomes wider as you rise up to excellence.

But: have you seen which kind of "engineering" those lads so often produce?

In my experience, the problem as I see it is extremely urgent. But instead of trying theorizing it a lot, I will attempt an example. A fictive one, sure, in the sense that this meeting in particular hasn't happened.

But, it's in fact the synthesis of many pointless product development brainstorming I had taken part, and bet many of you will remember something similar.

OK, product development. The field is fascinating, in itself, and very innovative if you let it to be.

This "typical" meeting is attended by a bunch of brilliant engineers, almost all male.

A guy, quite young and pleasant, is presenting his idea. He exudes self-confidence, this is sure - to the point is amusing to listen him.

His speech revolves around a new data acquisition system, to be used in meteorological stations. As he describes, you get an impression of gigahertz CPU speed, other numbers describing memory space, wonderful data processing, reliability figures almost beyond any realistic possibility...

But the lad is so convinced, to look convincing.

I wait, patiently, to understand where the juice is. But, another megabytes, brilliant coding, fashionable telecommunications, tricke to squeeze performances...

Then I, or someone else, rises a hand asking "OK, but which need exactly is your DAQ system addressing?" (In the real world I almost always do, and the result is not different: eyes wide open, as I'm coming from the Moon, and also a bit offended by my "interruption" - something unfair, as many others have interrupted the brilliant engineer, but asking questions like "what the bandwidth is under this and that condition?", to which the young inventor readily answered).

You can't imagine how many products are designed this way. Someone decides he (gender not chosen at random) knows some scientific subject to the point of being able to propose the Silver Bullet, the Object No One Has But Should, the Sure Market Success, Columbus Egg's (and possibly more). And then, enthusiastically, begin working in a lab, maybe also at a presentation.

This way, users who may benefit this invention are never taken into account, if not as indeterminate people whose only possible merit is to buy the new Thing.

My idea of an interesting produce development process is quite different. And I admit that I enjoy more the ideas by *lady engineers* (and few, accurately selected, alike minded men). Frankly, spending two hours attending presentation of things designed without even taking their users into account looks to me a giant waste of time - and I try avoiding it, as much as I can.

Unfortunately, presentations are not the only thing you have to get. There are the actual decision meetings, too, and things there may be even worse: in addition of losing your time, you are also likely to gain a headache: male engineers love litigation. It's really unnerving, how aggressively they try defending their ideas and testing yours.

In one of those meetings, held within my company, at last I was able to rise my vice louder than theirs, obtaining a results so small as the rat generated by the Mountain: a new data acquisition system, designed starting from user needs, as patiently collected over many contacts, in some years. And not the reverse.

There was an interesting epilog.

Design time (as from the company accounting log): 37 hours, 30 minutes.
Time to make people consider to take users into the equation: at least 16 hours (in many meetings).
Time of listening and working together with clients: some hundred hours (but this doesn't count: it's amusing, to me, and I do in my "spare" time, just connecting with prospective clients).

This is not to say time might have been used more efficiently.

But, I've a total nostalgy of the "meetings" I held with a friend of mine, a woman engineer, very capable and sensitive. How wonderful... Say we had an hour. We began chatting of her children, my new house, and apparently anything "improductive" (I remember well our then-boss perplexed face at these "meetings"). We went on on the same line, here and there adding some professional detail about the deal. And in the last five minutes we finalized the design. It *always* worked well. And, we were both perfectly satisfied of the solution: it was beneficial to us. It also was an occasion to connect, something rare in the Megacompany.

I don't know about the whole World, but I'm sure that, as an entrepreneur, today I am in an urgent need of many more lady engineers. With them, on average, we craft together things I can then sell. With men engineers, this isn't granted (finding the "benefit to customers" is, at that point, my task only! Or, better, to state as they so often do: "Your problem!"

Besides, I'm convinced the female brain is able to do many nice and socially useful things in engineering.

First, the female brain often conceives things which are really useful from the start.

And second:
- Women engineers are accurate, reliable, passionate.
- They work in a team and *listen*.
- They (this is of paramount importance) are not just engineers: are full-fledged human beings.
- They're also more playful and sympathetic than most male engineers.
- They don't brag, nor engage in sterile status contests.
. Ladies engineer master math and practical knowledge on very high levels, although no always love to make it visible.
- Products designed by women engineers are often easier to build, less expensive to produce, and with a clear, self explaining utility.
- Even among things as obstruse as "data acquisition systems" you can pinpoint easily the "female products": they are smaller on average, integrate seamlessly in larger systems, and look simpler to use (complexity is well hidden, not exhibited like a bonus).

These are just few things. The list is too long to place it here.

Now, dear, I have another interesting new: engineering may also be *fun*, not only useful.

And none of the very successful lad engineers I know is a "nerd", or a grey person. On the cntrary! (Can you imagine? We still play together!

As the Math Support Gals, we may try being more specific on this point!

May we be?

As I said, the need is almost desperate.

So, help me, opening a new thread!

Mauri

Comments

Nusrat Ara's picture

WE CAN DO ANYTHING. RIGHT

WE CAN DO ANYTHING. RIGHT MAURI

love

Nusrat

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative