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Engineering Can engineering be for NON-tomboyish girls?

  1. Jan 6, 2012 #1
    I want to go into Mechanical Engineering for my undergrad, because out of all my classes, I like math and physics the best. Also, my mom is an engineer. However, she told me that there are a lot of areas where girls don't have the advantage in mechanical engineering because companies don't want to hire girls who are less likely to want to operate on machines.

    Are there many jobs in Mechanical Engineering that requires no field-work? or just sitting-behind the desk all day long?

    Are there other areas of engineering that are better suited for NON-tomboyish girls?

    My other option would be to become a Certified Public Accountant.

    Please give me some suggestions, thank you!! ^^
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 6, 2012 #2


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    Do you not enjoy building things and using machines to make things?
  4. Jan 6, 2012 #3
    I do enjoy it, and am willing to learn.

    but I am worried that some companies will be biased toward girls when hiring :S I heard that if there are two applicants with equal skills and background, the company will likely hire the guy for mechanical engineering jobs
  5. Jan 6, 2012 #4


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    Well I know several female MEs who are quite good. What country are you in? I don't think what you are saying applies in the US.
  6. Jan 6, 2012 #5
    I think its the opposite. Your minority status will help you more than hurt (with respect to STEM fields in the US).
  7. Jan 6, 2012 #6
    Hello Gesong789,
    You don't have to be a tom-boy, or a male; in fact, you can be a female. Although the concentration of females in engineering (at my university) is less than males, those who stand out and excel do so independent of what is between their legs. Although there may exist bias individuals in the world, it is not strictly limited to engineering. If you are serious about pursuing the degree, then do so. There are numerous successful woman engineers in all of the disciplines.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2012
  8. Jan 6, 2012 #7
    I can't speak for mechanical engineering, but I'm very familiar with another traditionally male-dominated field (physics/particle physics) and I can say that sexism is indeed alive-and-well in the field.

    I recommend seeing if there is an active Society of Women Engineers at your university (or the university you are interested in). Contact them, and they can put you in touch with women working in your field of interest, and you can get answers from people who have lived the career, rather than random people on a message board, who may or may not know what they are talking about.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  9. Jan 6, 2012 #8


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    Even if sexism is an issue (+ or -) so what? No matter what you do in life you will encounter challenges. If it's not sexism it'll be job security, or heath or wages. Why does knowing the name of the challenge mean you should avoid it, in favor of some challenge you don't know?

    The best and only thing you can do is do what you love. That is your best strategy for succeeding in the face of any adversity you're going to encounter.

    tomboyish / non-tomboyish. Nonsense. Do you like it? Can you be good at it? Yes? End of worrying.
  10. Jan 7, 2012 #9


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    +1.0 Nice post Dave. :smile:
  11. Jan 8, 2012 #10
    I wish I could say I know lots of female engineers. They represent only about 10% of all engineers I know. There aren't many "tomboys" among them.

    I wish I knew what discourages women from engineering, but I do not. Nevertheless, you can be whoever you want to be as an engineer. This is a career based upon what is in your head, not what biological equipment you may have.
  12. Jan 8, 2012 #11


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    A tomboy is a girl who exhibits few of the traditionally "girlish" traits (eg. heels, makeup, an affinity for pink), preferring instead to maintain an image more boyish. So, if you say there are 10% women in your circles but there aren't any tomboys along them, the implication is that the 10% of women in your field are quite feminine - they do (for example) wear heels, skirts and perfume.

    Is that what you meant to say?
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  13. Jan 8, 2012 #12
    it is crazy easy for girls to land jobs/internships in engineering
    So yea go ahead
  14. Jan 8, 2012 #13
    I guess I could have written that better, but yes, you understand what I was getting at.

    Obviously engineers will need to dress appropriately for the job site. Men who wear suits and ties won't be terribly useful to anyone. Likewise, women wearing skirts and heels aren't going to be any better off.

    However, the office is still the office. Those who dress well often move on to management and bigger things. That's the honest truth.
  15. Jan 10, 2012 #14
    It depends on what you mean by "non-tomboyish." I know a lot of women in software engineering and they are able to project power and get both personal and professional respect while being "feminine." I know lots of people that end up being "momma grizzlies" or "alpha females".

    Also one thing that I have found about women in science and engineering is that those that survive tend to form an "old girls network."
  16. Jan 10, 2012 #15


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    About 10% of the electrical engineers in the division I work for are women. I work closely with four of them, who do good work and are respected. The Department manager is a woman with an EE degree from MIT, and she directs over 60 people. Her boss is also a woman engineer (mechanical), who has some 120 people under her. Most wear pants in lieu of skirts, but I don't think of them as tomboys. They are like a cross-section of women anywhere--they are girlfriends, moms, some are fresh out of college while others are nearing retirement, some are fashionable others not so much. They are all smarter than average. I say do what you love. Our company has a mentorship program for women and an active Women in Engineering chapter. If you don't find the support you want at your employer, start a group!
  17. Jan 10, 2012 #16


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    Science and engineering (applied physics) is gender-independent, so forget about the 'tomboy' issue.

    Find a discipline that one enjoys, become proficient, and be diligent.

    The cultural/societal aspect is a different matter. In that respect, one only need to concerned about those who value one as one is - and ignore the rest.
  18. Jan 11, 2012 #17
    Great answer from ParticleGrl. Yes, ME is male dominated and some sexism exists in most professions. However, if you have good grades, experience, etc. you should have no problem in a male dominated field. I would pursue ME if you think you are going to enjoy and excel at it. Don't let your gender discourage you - it's 2012. Your gender should not be the basis on why you don't pursue what you want to do.
  19. Jan 11, 2012 #18
    Nuts on that! Go for it, girl! Even if they did discriminate, SOMEONE'S gotta show 'em who's boss.

    And for what it's worth, I know several aerospace engineering majors who are very feminine females. You don't have to be a tomboy to be an engineer. Not at all.
  20. Jan 14, 2012 #19
    Although I have to wonder for someone with the username "ParticleGirl"; how much is SOCIETY defining you by your gender and how much is YOU defining yourself by your gender. Not to mention proudly joining gender-exclusive societies. That's what I always wonder with these Women In Science and Engineering groups (and equivalently for black or latin physicists, I can't remember what they're called). Obviously social dynamics are complicated but if you make every effort to DEFINE yourself as a distinct group then people are going to SEE YOU as a distinct group, and let's face it , regardless of gender or race people prefer people in their own group and have less preference for those in others (whether it's gender, race or randomly handing out blue shirt and red shirts).
  21. Jan 14, 2012 #20
    I debated with myself for a long time whether or not I should respond to this. This isn't a thread for a debate on gender/society/identity. In the end, I decided to stick to an area of my experience that might benefit the original poster.

    In undergrad, I was literally the only woman in my physics classes. I literally never had a female professor (there were two tenured women professor in the department, but I never ended up with one teaching a class I was taking). Now, I hope you can agree, this can feel a bit isolating. Imagine yourself in classes with only women for your entire undergrad experience. Regardless of how well you are doing in the classes, its easy to let doubt creep in.

    Society of women engineers was a godsend for me because it connected me with other people who had made it in various science/engineering careers. Thats why I recommend the original poster contact a chapter- its one thing for a bunch of random people on a message board (almost all of whom have never been a woman trying to make it in a traditionally male field) to offer encouragement. Its a much different thing for a real-life woman who has been successful in the career to offer encouragement.

    Society of women engineers is not gender exclusive, membership is open to all. The chapter at my undergrad institution was 40% men.
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