Women of Science, Tech, Engineering & Math
Women’s History Month reminds us how far we’ve come in opening doors for talented young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but it also illuminates how far we have yet to go.
Broadview is sponsoring the upcoming JA Girl’s Dream Fair, an event aimed at getting 7th & 8th grade girls interested in STEM fields. Today, I want to talk about why getting more women in STEM fields is important to Broadview, and to share a bit about some of the female technical talent we are lucky to have here.
Hiring Female Engineers is a Priority
Since his purchase of Broadview in 2012, it has been one of Rick Arnold's priorities to get more female engineers on our team. Rick has always understood the value of having women in engineering. His sister is a successful engineer at JCI, and just received news, incidentally, that she will be honored in Washington DC next month with a Women in Manufacturing STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Award, along with 129 other model STEP women.
Considering Broadview had zero female engineers when Rick started, we've definitely made progress. We now have three women engineers, plus myself (falling more under the technology category), bringing our ratio up to 1 in 4, which is on par with the national average. Rick wants to do better, but it is difficult to find women with the right experience to meet the needs of our clients (if you know any, send them our way!). This is why we find the JA Girl’s Dream Fair to be so important, and why our STEM women were eager to volunteer.
Meet Broadview’s STEM Women
Erin, who has been with Broadview the longest, holds a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan Tech and previously worked for Gentex and JCI. Andrea has been with Broadview just over two years and also holds an ME degree from Michigan Tech and worked at JCI. Carrie has a degree in manufacturing administration and a master’s in industrial engineering, and specializes in ergonomics and safety. I have a manufacturing and technology focused business degree and specialize in marketing and business processes for manufacturers.
The four of us share similar stories about what inspired us to go into our respective fields. Erin’s dad is an engineer and he used to let her help him on projects. She knew engineering would be a stable career and would give her flexibility in the types of jobs she could find. Carrie said she knew early on that she wanted to be an engineer, having always been good at math and science. I come from a family of engineers, including an electrical engineer/calculus professor for a mother and a Lean manufacturing engineer for a little sister, so you could say it’s in my blood.
Women in STEM See Pros and Cons
Aside from having to get comfortable being the only woman in the room, we’ve all generally had good experiences working in male-dominated fields. We've even found our minority status to be an advantage at times. For instance, college programs and companies actively recruit women, and there aren’t as many of us, so it can be less competitive for us to find jobs. Plus, girls today have a lot of support from organizations like the JA.
That said, we’ve all faced challenges because of our womanhood. Erin recalled her physics teacher in high school telling her she wasn’t smart enough to become an engineer, even though she was top in her class. She also expressed frustration in men tending to take over and doing things for her instead of explaining or showing her how to do them herself. Carrie had a boss who asked her to wear more makeup, and made some other inappropriate comments I won’t mention. One of my former bosses suggested that they photograph me in a “tight” outfit for an internet ad–clearly not part of my job description as marketing manager.
While the four of us agree that things seem to be getting better for women in these fields overall, and that we personally receive respect and support from our own company, we acknowledge that there is a long road ahead yet for women in these male-dominated areas.
Advice From Women Who've Been There
Erin, Carrie, Andrea and I have some advice to women looking into STEM fields based on our collective experiences: Don’t let anyone stand in your way. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Get to know yourself and where your strengths lie. Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are. Don’t be afraid to express your ideas and opinions, and stand up for yourself. Learn about successful women in your field and emulate them. Find a good mentor–doesn’t have to be a woman, just someone who supports you and encourages you to be the best you can be.