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Engineering Week 2019: Battle of the Sexes in Engineering

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A polarizing topic and a polarizing question, who wins in the battle of the sexes?

The topic of equality in the workplace and lack of transparency has come to the forefront of many internal and external discussions. According to the Society of Women’s Engineers, in 2003 only 20% of new graduates from an engineering discipline were female in the United States. Compare that to a recent study in 2018 by Roberta Rincon, PH.D., Manager of Research at the SWE, where only 30% of women who earn a bachelor’s degree in Engineering are still working in that profession 20 years later and only 13% of engineers are women in the USA. However, there was a 54% increase in women being awarded engineering and computer science degree between 2011 and 2016.

If we bring this closer to home, just 11% of the UK’s engineering workforce were female in 2017, a 2% increase since 2015. The UK also has the lowest percentage of female engineers in the EU, under 10% where the likes of Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus have nearly 30%.

One step closer again and we are in Ireland where less than 25% of the people working in STEM related professions are women. Accenture conducted a survey which conveyed that there are negative stereotypes towards STEM subjects and careers.

Certainly, there is still a long way to go before we reach true equality, it is a highly important issue. Yet, how about we move away slightly from representation and focus on pure achievement and contribution when discussing women and men in engineering? We provide the engineering icons and their achievements, and you decide who wins in a casual five-a-side match up!

Let’s start at a time when engineering was starting to make waves across the whole of society and specifically focus in on electrical engineering, our first match up is Nikola Tesla and Edith Clarke.

 

Edith Clarke

  • First Female Electrical Engineer and First Female Professor of Electrical Engineering in the University, teaching for 10 years.

  • Invented the calculator while working as a Supervisor in GE.

  • Also invented Clarke Transformation and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

  • Two of her papers in mathematics won awards from the AIEE, best regional paper in 1932 and best national paper in 1941.

 

Nikola Tesla

  • The famous Croatian began working in Edison Machine Works, troubleshooting installations and improving generators patented over 300 inventions but is most well known for the Tesla Coil and oscillator.

  • Advised on the electrical system for Niagara Falls.

  • Invented a radio remote control boat, dubbing it “teleautomation” but the general public considered it magic or even made the outlandish claim a small monkey was driving it. This would later go into mass use in World War I for torpedoes with Tesla getting little acclaim.

  • Effectively dying bankrupt, he was well known for his eccentric behaviour, working everyday from 9am to 6pm, walking at least 8 miles every day and possessing an eidetic memory.

So, who was the bright spark who outshone the other between this duo of electrical engineers?

Next up we have the Civil Engineers who paved the way in their fields, Gustave Eiffel and Emily Warren Roebling.

 

Emily Warren Roebling

  • Contributed massively to the completion of the Brooklyn bridge.

  • After her husband, Washington Roebling, the chief engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge, contracted Caisson Disease and became bed-ridden, she developed an extensive knowledge of Materials, Stress Analysis and Cable Construction. She also became the only person to relay instruction to his assistants and aided in the plans for completion of the bridge itself.

  • She took over a lot of the chief engineer duties and jointly planned the bridges completion and was the first to cross the bridge by carriage.

  • Campaigned for women’s rights and against discriminatory practices targeted at women, winning wide acclaim and awards for her essay “A Wife’s Disabilities”.

 

Gustave Eiffel

  • Most famous for the Eiffel Tower but also contributed to the liberty statue and also designed the Garabit Viaduct.

  • The Eiffel Bridge, and Gustave’s first major work, which is in Bordeaux has been protected as a French Historical Monument.

  • Even though he was only a contractor for the Panama Bridge project he was implicated in the financial and political scandal.

  • Contributed massively to aerodynamics and civil engineering, he died on 27 December 1923 while listening to Beethovens 5th Symphony

The Brooklyn Bridge vs the Eiffel Tower, who built more of a legacy, Gustave or Emily? Both certainly had their issues to overcome but left a lasting legacy behind them but who made the bigger impression on the civil engineering world?

Following on from Civil Engineering, we have a match up between a physicist and a chemist who both revolutionized their own respective fields and the world as we know it.

 

Stephanie Kwolek

  • Offered a position at the DuPont facility in New York, the vacancy arose as the majority of men were overseas in World War II but developed a career spanning 40 years, becoming the only female employee in 2015 to receive the Lavoisier Medal for outstanding achievement.

  • She became the fourth woman to be added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame after creating Kevlar and had an illustrious career in working with polymers.

  • Stephanie never profited from the discovery as she signed it over to DuPont, but Kevlar is used in hundreds of different products that we use daily such as mobile phones and cables.

  • She won a publication award for her Nylon Rope Trick which created Nylon from a beaker at room temperature but also received the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists and an award for Creative Invention from the American Chemical Society.

  • The Royal Society of Chemistry awards scientists the ‘Stephanie L Kwolek Award’ to exceptional contributions to the area of materials chemistry outside of the UK.

 

John Bardeen

  • Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics twice, first in 1956 for the invention of the transistor and secondly in 1972 for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity known as the BCS theory.

  • His development of the transistor helped with almost all modern technology such as telephones and computers, effectively bringing in the information age.

  • In 1990, John was included in Life Magazines 100 most Influential Americans of the Century.

  • Worked on magnetic mines and torpedoes during World War II.

  • Sony have created a John Bardeen Professional Chair post at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bursar of $3 million.

With both inventors and engineers leaving a massive legacy behind them both in academia and in real life application of science, it is a hard-won battle about who comes out on top between this pair.

Now to look at more of a celebrity type of engineer and inventor with a flair for the limelight.

 

Hedy Lamarr

  • An Austrian born, inventor and actress who both helped develop a radio guidance system for allied torpedoes and starred in the likes of Algiers, Boom Town and Samson and Delilah.

  • With no formal training, she created improved traffic stoplights, torpedoes that could resist frequency jamming and advised Howard Hughes on changing the design of his aeroplanes to sleeker, streamlined versions.

  • In 1939, she was awarded the “most promising new actress” and has a Hollywood walk of Fame star.

  • She became the first woman to receive the Invention Convention’s BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundations Pioneer Award and also was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

  • She has had her fair share of controversy with her film Ecstasy being banned in numerous countries for its content, being convicted of shoplifting twice and a few other scandals.

 

Elon Musk

  • The South African entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of SpaceX and Co-Founder and CEO of Tesla with other massive companies such as The Boring Company which cover infrastructure and construction to Neuralink, a neurotechnology company.

  • He founded X.com which later became PayPal and was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion and also Zip2 who were later acquired by Compaq for $340 million.

  • Elon has stated that the goals if SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity are humanitarian in reducing the effect of global warming by increasing the use of sustainable energy and even found a colony on mars.

  • He has been ranked as one of the most powerful people in the world by Forbes, was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Business Insider named him in the top ten of business visionaries creating value for the world.

Who has the bigger wow factor, the movie star who escaped Nazi occupation to become a massive film star and inventor or the modern-day entrepreneurial engineer changing the landscape of the world?

Up next are two engineers who have represented two of the biggest companies in the world with very different backgrounds but still inspirational stories.

 

Ann Kelleher

  • Born in Macroom, Co. Cork who was one of 5 women in a class of 55 studying engineering in UCC. She continued her studies achieving a master’s in electrical engineering and became the first ever female to receive a PHD from the NMRC.

  • She began her career as a process engineer in Intel Ireland later progressing to factory manager, eventually site managing Intel’s New Mexico plant.

  • She became the first woman in Intel’s history to be named Vice President, later becoming senior vice-president.

  • In 2018 she became one of 25 women to be recognised in “Ireland’s Most Powerful Women Award” and was even tipped by Forbes as a good candidate to replace Elon Musk at Tesla.

  • She is a huge advocate for women working in engineering and has called for more girls to study engineering and that more women should be applying for senior management roles.

 

Steve Wozniak

  • Electronics engineer who co-founded Apple who is widely considered one of the founding fathers of the personal computer revolution.

  • After a traumatic plane crash, he suffered from amnesia using Apple II computer games to regain his memory but later leaving apple to invent and patent a universal controller.

  • He has a long line of philanthropic programs he works on, ranging form founding the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sponsoring the Tech Museum, the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and provided the entirety of the budget for the technical program for his local school district in Los Gatos.

  • In 2014 he was induced into the Manufacturing Wall of Fame while also acting as the Innovator in Residence at High Point University and receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Museum of Natural History.

  • As well as holding an electrical engineering degree from the University of California, he has 10 honorary degrees from American, English, Canadian and Spanish degrees.

Is it the Cork native with her extremely impressive CV who comes out smiling or is it Woz with his contribution to Apple and personal computers?

 

Overall this is not to split opinion or be divisive, it is an insight into the major engineering feat’s that have been achieved by men and women. Despite low female representation in the engineering sphere, female leaders such as Hey Lamarr and Ann Kelliher still emerged changing the world for the better. These female leaders went against the grain in spectacular fashion portraying that we can do more to further the conversation on diversity in engineering.

 

Posted by James Porter on 8 March 2019

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Doing These 10 Things will make you the Best Boss in the World – According to Google

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