Hi everyone! Hopefully if you are reading this series of blogs on women in engineering, you have already watched the video Emily and I made, where we got a chance to discuss with other women in Viterbi what it means to be a woman engineer. We all have had different expectations and experiences as women in engineering, and I’d like to share mine with you as well.
Like most of you, I had some questions about what it meant to be a woman in engineering, I’d heard many things about it, but I didn’t know what my own experience would be. Growing up, my dad was an Electrical Engineer, and since I showed an interest in math and science, he always encouraged me to learn more about math, science, and engineering. I attended various conferences and workshops over the years on science and engineering exploration, most of them featuring successful female engineers. I even got to meet Sally Ride at one event! But it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I knew that I wanted to study engineering, specifically civil engineering, in college. I came to engineering in a roundabout way; for a research paper I studied the reconstruction of Paris under Napoleon, including the reconstructed city layout, the design of the large boulevards and open spaces, the central architectural design theme, and how these changes impacted society. Although I loved this topic, I knew I didn’t want to be an architect, so I was left with civil engineering – the real math and science behind architecture.
To this day when I tell people I am studying engineering, they are always surprised, and then continue to ask me about the difficulty of my courses and the ratio of boys to girls in my classes. I am proud to tell them that the courses have proven to be perfectly manageable, and that I don’t even notice that women are a minority in my classes. At USC, this ratio doesn’t matter – we all work together towards our common goal of succeeding in our classes. USC is better than most schools – we have about a 30% ratio of boys to girls in our engineering classes. In my civil engineering classes, I would say its closer to 50%, and in my Building Science emphasis classes, it actually is 50%!
There are many student organizations within Viterbi dedicated towards bringing together women in engineering, such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Women in Engineering (WIE). I have been a member of SWE since freshman year, this year I am a member of Officer’s Council, and next year I will be on the Executive Board. It definitely has helped me to meet other girls in Viterbi, and meet other female student and professional engineers through opportunities like the SWE National Conference, which I went to this past fall in Chicago. I have also met and become friends with the girls in my classes, and formed great study groups! But I think one of the best things about being a woman in engineering at USC is that you aren’t limited to Viterbi – in fact, many of my engineering friends are also very involved with organizations and activities outside Viterbi, whether its a sports team, a singing group, greek life, religious life, etc. Engineers at USC, both men and women, can and do become involved with everything. So as my friend and SWE President Brittney said in the women in engineering video, if you’re a girl and you’re on the fence about studying engineering in college, go for it! And if you have any more questions feel free to email me or any of the other girls using the links on this page.