Girlpower in engineering: what does the gender gap mean for Amélie?
Who is Amélie? She’s an agricultural engineer who has been standing strong in a sector mainly occupied by men for 7 years.
Will this male dominance change some time soon? Initiatives such as STEM aim to fix not only the shortage in technical profiles in the job market, but also to motivate more girls and women to opt for a technical training or job. But such an evolution takes time.
How is this reflected in the job market? Do young women in this sector have to deal with macho behaviour and prejudice, or is it not all that bad? We asked Amélie about it. She works as an AUSY consultant for A.I.D.E.
Why did you opt for a career in engineering?
Amélie: “My father was a teacher in horticulture. At home he used to grow all different kinds of plants and I adored helping him in the garden. I’ve had green fingers from a very young age!”
“After highschool I started the bachelor in agronomy. The courses were so interesting that I wanted to learn more even after I had obtained my degree. After a transition program I got my master’s in agricultural engineering.”
What does your current job entail?
Amélie: “As technical supervisor, I manage the cadasters of the sewage network. Based on the information the field staff provides me with, I make sure the drainage system is in accordance with the regulations.”
What is the most interesting aspect of your job?
“I really like the site visits. Talking to my teams gives me an overview of the entire project. I like to understand what I’m doing,” says Amélie.
Why don’t more women opt for a career in engineering?
“I think it has something to do with a very stubborn stereotype in the job market: men are supposedly better in technical functions than women. Women, on the other hand, would rather be at home spending time with their family than have an important career…”
Have you ever gotten negative reactions on your studies or your job?
“I never got any negative reactions while studying,” she says. “But at my previous job, someone once told me that I ‘shouldn’t stay in my comfort zone’, in reaction to me not being very excited to start a certain task. By this, the person meant that women generally don’t like to perform complicated tasks. But I’m a very enthusiastic person that gets a lot of energy out of her work and isn’t afraid to take on new assignments.”
The future of Engineering
Do you think most engineers are still men?
Amélie: “I believe the gender gap has already been closed quite a bit in comparison to some years ago. At this point in time, I don’t believe that this sector is dominated by men. Mind you, this could also be a result of working in a company in which women are the majority.”
Why should women study engineering?
“Because women have just as much skill, potential and value as men. Women and men are inherently different, but this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I think it can be a real advantage to have a mix of men and women working in your team!”
Do you think the gender gap will be closed in the future?
“I trust that the mentality on women in a technical function will improve. Some sectors just take a little more time than others. An equal distribution between men and women is already a much discussed topic in politics. At a certain point in time, this type of thinking will also penetrate the private sector.”
“But the gap will never be closed if women allow themselves to be hindered by the prevailing stereotypes. To every young woman out there, I’d like to say that she shouldn’t doubt herself. Don’t be bothered by remarks of others, and be inspired by all the women that did this before you. That’s right, girl power!”