Honestly, it depends on the place and people who you’re interacting with. Sometimes I love being a female in a male dominated environment. The way a female thinks is completely different to a man so you are able to solve problems differently and come up different solutions (and I think we are a lot more organised than men!).
Other times though I feel like I am being “trusted” less than my male colleagues. I felt this especially when I was working as an apprentice before I came to university. I felt like the males in my year were given more challenging roles than I was. As a female in some engineering environments you have to prove yourself a lot more but like I said it depends on the place. At university I feel like I have been given MORE opportunities than the males on my course. It’s definitely made me a stronger female so I would still recommend engineering to females.
As Carmel says it depends a lot on who you’re with. I’m not only one of the few women, I’m also one of the few people who work on cells and the only one who works with bacteria in my office so I am an ‘odd one out’ for a number of reasons. Sometimes you do feel like people make assumptions about you due to you being a woman, usually that I won’t find something funny to be honest. I am very lucky in that I feel like everyone does take me seriously, and as Carmel says people tend to remember you more and that can lead to more opportunities.
The flip side of this is that people do say sometimes that it’s actually easier to get ahead as a woman because people are so keen to encourage women in engineering. I got my PhD on a scholarship so sometimes I do wonder if it wasn’t all because I was the best candidate and some of it was because it looked good to give it to a woman. However, I am a good engineer so I just have to not let yourself think like that.
Engineering is a great field so no-one should feel like its not for them, no matter your gender, race or anything else.
I was very lucky. Both in my studies and at the places I have worked, the balance was pretty much 50-50. But I know I was lucky in this regard and that it is sometimes very difficult because:
a) you feel like you have to prove yourself more
or b) you feel like you were hired because of your gender rather than your skills.
In any case:
“Engineering is a great field so no-one should feel like it’s not for them, no matter your gender, race or anything else.” – what Kath said is pretty much on point!
What I do know is that there aren’t enough female engineers. Many products out there are mainly used by women, so surely it would be better if they were developed by female engineers who have a better understanding of women’s needs.
You’re right, we need more! I work with some fantastic engineers who are women (both my supervisors) and it definitely is tougher to be recognised appropriately, but feels like this is changing slowly. My experience (not as a women..) in terms of representation has varied wildly from ~1/100 engineers in a automotive engineering company to closer to 50/50 in my current lab (biomedical eng in general).