By Asha Sara, March 8 2021—
The University of Calgary celebrated the world-wide campaign Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, on Feb. 20, by recognizing three female Schulich School of Engineering students. The Gauntlet had the chance to interview two of these students — Lena Le and Eden Guterman. Le and Guterman are both second year engineering students who shared their insights about what it means to be a female engineering student and the positive impact of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.
When asked why they chose engineering, both the girls shared how neither of them initially considered it an option until later in high school. Le shared how in high school she worked as a pharmacy assistant, which led to an interest in medicine and being in the medical field. However, Le joked that, “I don’t like blood, so I ruled out the option of being a doctor.”
Le said that during her time as a pharmacy assistant she began to realize the medication that patients required were quite expensive. “For a few packs of insulin it’s over $200, and to see people reducing their grocery spending for the week to afford it sucks,” said Le.
This inspired Le to want to go into chemical engineering, as she wanted to help and change this problem. She chose Schulich when she noticed that the school also offers a minor in biomedical engineering, which would help her achieve her goals within the pharmaceutical feild. Guterman shared similar insight in her thought process that led her to choose engineering.
“I had many interests, whether that be sports, dancing, or art — really anything you can think of that does not really go together,” she said. “I was looking for a way to apply these things which is what led me to engineering. To solve problems within my interests, and to help people.” Guterman added that after looking into the program more, it seemed like a great opportunity that would be applicable to all her interests.
Along with Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, the Schulich School of Engineering hosts many activity days to get young girls interested in the field. Guterman mentions how these types of female engineering focused days are important because, “there is a gap in education of what engineering is. I do believe these programs are important and do help expose girls to the option without brushing it away and not knowing what the field holds.”
Le feels that having a day to show girls what the field is and what they can do within engineering will help give them insight to what their futures could be. Guterman wants girls to know that their curiosity and willingness to explore something new, “is what’s important.”
Consistent with the theme of the day, one of Le’s many goals is to encourage more girls to go into engineering and to be the representation that girls need.
“If you see someone you look up to who looks like you, and is out there in the field doing great work, it will give girls the courage to go out of their way to pursue engineering,” she said. “And if they need help they can come and ask me, or other girls.”
Guterman works with high school girls interested in engineering through the school’s U-Connect program. She helps encourage future girls in engineering because, “growing up, in math and science class you hear alot of male names and how they contributed to math and science and changed the world, so that aspect is really cool to be a part of the change in representation.” Through U-Connect, Guterman acts as a point of connection for high school girls interested in the field for any questions they may have.
The female perspective in engineering has been lacking due to it being a male dominated field. Le feels that the female perspective is, “important, as males don’t always see what we go through, and what we need and want in a device. Engineers make consumer products for everyone, and having everyone satisfied with the end product is the main goal of an engineer,” she explained. “So having the perspective of what a female consumer needs is essential.”
Guterman has similar feelings towards the necessity of the female perspective when it comes to engineering for consumers. “We are half the population, for that reason I feel it’s important for whoever is using the product that their needs are listened to too,” she said. However, Guterman also feels that diversity in general is necessary in engineering, as products made for society need the perspective of every group who will be using them.
The advice Le would give to other girls interested in engineering is, “don’t limit yourself, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.” Le feels the engineering world is moving in a positive direction of inclusion of women. Guterman feels this new representation of women will help destigmatize women in the field.
“I see in the future that workplace gender roles won’t be as stigmatized, and it starts with representation and participation in the field,” said Guterman.
Both Le and Guterman feel as though the engineering world is inviting and welcoming towards them. Le shares that in her experience, everyone is very much included in group work and that the program has a very homey and helpful vibe.
Le said, “Schulich emphasizes working together, and not isolating one anther to find who’s the best, but to find solutions by working together.” Guterman has a similar experience in that she feels, “being the one of the only girls in my classes has not been a barrier to my education.”
Le and Guterman are both hard working engineers, who are hopeful for their future careers in the field. The impact of celebratory days such as Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day will hopefully bridge the gap within the field, and continue to inspire the future generations of female engineers.