Will Structural Engineering Firms Get More Women Civil Engineers in the Future?

Structural engineering firms may expect more women civil engineers to join the field in the coming years if recent numbers and perspectives are any indication. In fact, some of these firms have been established (and owned) by women.

Recent data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows a boost in the number of women taking degrees in civil engineering within recent years. From 13.5% of women who began their civil engineering studies in 2007, that number grew to 20.3% in 2016. Within that reporting period for any year, the highest number of women students is 875.

Some data from some schools in the United States share similarities to the above result. Per 2015 federal data, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows female Bachelor of Engineering graduates at more than 50%. In Yale University, women engineering graduate numbers reach 49%.

New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College even claims a first for any U.S.-based research university: its 2016 women engineering graduates outnumbered their male counterparts for that same school year.

Why Civil Engineering Appeals to Women

What makes civil engineering a desirable career path among women? Women’s Engineering Society President, Dawn Bonfield, explained that, despite the lack of direct evidence, girls respond well when they use their innovation and creativity skills in their fields of practice. Such skills, according to her, link to civil engineering more compared to its other areas.

Randy Atkins, Director of Communications for the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, offered another perspective in this growing shift. “We’re changing the image of engineering to a creative profession, a problem-solving profession…That is resonating with more women, helping them see engineering in a new way,” he said in a statement.

Likewise, civil engineering can provide a purpose for some women. One female civil engineer, who worked on the Vauxhall Underground Station Upgrade project, believes said field attracts women due to its impact of helping a community.

On helping a community, as Yukon-based engineer Sandra MacDougall observed, girls generally desire a profession that helps people. Historically, girls find themselves attracted to people-helping professions such as nursing and teaching or civil engineering in this case.

Women’s Challenges in Studying the Field

In a career field long dominated by men, women are sure to face some challenges.

One study reveals women experience marginalization in their internships, “summer work opportunities, or team-based educational activities” that cause some to reconsider the profession. One of the study’s recommendations is that institutions develop seminars wherein people dissect student internship experiences for problems women face.

Carolyn J. Emerson, a Distinguished Lecturer of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), believes women also need to learn skills apart from the field, such as effective communication and negotiation.

Yet the growing number of female civil engineers should prove that women are more than capable of overcoming these challenges. Perhaps more important for women is they know they have every kind of support they need. Fortunately, some initiatives enable women to hear experiences from their more successful peers, network with others, and obtain mentoring opportunities, among other things.

Everyone’s Help Necessary for Women

All in all, universities, companies and professional organizations need to work together and encourage more women to join the engineering field. They can do this by discussing common issues, leveraging valuable resources and especially creating an environment wherein women know they’re welcome as part of a team. As any professional group should know: when a team feels empowerment and support, its members tend to stay for a long time.

With women supported every step of the way, structural engineering firms will have plenty of help by then, some to many of whom itching to help communities and make a difference.


More women studying civil engineering, newcivilengineer.com
For the first time, a US college had more female engineering graduates than men, sciencealert.com