Showing young women and girls what electrical engineering is all about
But how can we communicate this potential to girls in high school who are set to choose their studies or profession after completing their school-leaving exams? “Girls’ Days work, but they aren’t enough,” explains Maya Götz. “Companies and organizations should offer regular Future Days that features things like stations where female pupils can work with female university students on solving problems. Our evaluation shows that after a Girls’ Day, half the participants can imagine going on to study electrical engineering.” Götz concludes that we urgently need to break down the existing stereotypes and combat any existing fears. “Girls in particular presume that they’ll be ‘put in their place’ when working in technical professions at companies.”
Isabell Wirth thinks along similar lines: “Maybe we need to dispel fears that studying engineering is difficult and shed light on the fun and sense of purpose that electrical engineering in particular has to offer. This is the perfect place for all those who enjoy solving puzzles and mastering complicated tasks.” However, Wirth adds, the technical requirements do need to be in place. “An understanding of technology and an interest in math and physics are necessary in order to graduate.”
Role models for balancing one’s family life and career
Professor Jutta Hanson wants to actively ease such fears and promote the subject of electrical engineering at TU Darmstadt in a targeted way. “We’re going to keep plugging away – visiting schools, reaching out to female students and their teachers, and presenting engineering as a fascinating career with highly topical tasks, excellent opportunities for further development, a wide-ranging job profile and above all, a chance to apply mathematics, physics or even computer science. We also specifically invite female school students to visit us so we can give them insights into the university and how they can study here.” Different approaches to and perspectives of technology, more innovative solutions thanks to diverse teams and the urgent need to recruit promising students to address the huge shortage of electrical engineers – all of these are excellent reasons to get more women involved in electrical engineering. Isabell Wirth, herself a mother of two, offers one more: “I believe it’s important to have more female engineers to act as role models – not only in terms of the subject matter, but with regard to new working time models and caring responsibilities, as well. Right now, projects at companies rarely give you the chance to work part-time. It would certainly help if there were greater awareness of care work; it would also benefit men who want to spend more time taking care of their families.”
LinkedIn influencers like Kenza Ait Si Abbou Lyadini, who also wrote the children’s book Meine Freundin Roxy (“My Friend Roxy”) to spark young people’s interest in robotics and is also a mother, use social media specifically to raise visibility. For example, they organize hackathons geared specifically toward women. “I would definitely recommend electrical engineering because it gives you an understanding of everything related to electricity and electronics,” says the AI expert. And that applies to boys just as much as girls.
Simone Fasse is a journalist in Munich. Her writing focuses on topics from the fields of technology and new work.