Evolution of Women in Engineering
Before the term ‘engineer’ was coined in the 11th century, women like Ada Lovelace and Margaret E. Knight amongst many had already set the precedent as designer and builders of structures and machines, all with technological advancement of societies on their minds.
In 1876, the first woman to receive an engineering bachelor’s degree was at the University of California in Berkeley – her name was Elizabeth Bragg. With history like that and in an era when women are increasingly prominent in driving the world’s economic growth, engineering is still seen as a male-dominated field.
One of the possible reasons for lower female to male ratio in engineering fields are values typically associated with male gender roles in the workplace. An example is that some women in engineering find it difficult to re-enter the workforce especially after a period of absence whether it is for maternity or sabbatical leave .
Leadership roles were often much more associated with men and with that a less than conducive environment is set up for women co-workers. Another contributing factor is communication – which is said to divide men and women in the workplace. This comes from the stereotype that men are more qualified than women which causes men to treat women as inferiors. And lastly, part of the reason why engineering was a male dominated field is the perception towards engineering itself. According to Stephanie Blaisdell’s Factors In The Underrepresentation Of Women In Science And Engineering: A Review Of The Literature, a study found that both sexes deemed engineering as a masculine field.
However, in the past few decades, women’s representation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, especially engineering, has seen a significant improvement. In the 60s, only 1 percent of women were engineers and by the 2000s, women made up about 11 percent of all engineers.
Recognising the benefits of diversity in the Board, we have consistently maintained and exceeded the 30% women directors requirement as we believe that such diversity brings new perspectives, approaches and ideas for the Group. Under the current Board composition, the Group’s women representation is at 43%
In recent years, the government, corporations and educational institutions even in Malaysia are working diligently to decrease the gender gap between men and women in the engineering field by recruiting more women into their programs. Collectively, these strategies help increase women’s exposure to STEM-related courses during school and help plant a positive idea relating to gender in the engineering culture. Corporate organisations are also producing a more female-friendly working environment on and off-site. It is also important to note that corporates and institutions are now emphasising the importance of recruiting women to enrol themselves STEM related programmes at an undergraduate level.
Gamuda offers scholarships to those pursuing engineering, quantity surveying, township and urban planning, architecture, property and real estate management, accounting, business IT, human resources management and psychology. Read about it here.
Noor Affida Raffika is a true testament that proves how wrong gender stereotypes can be. She received her Gamuda Scholarship to pursue her dream as an engineer. Started her career in Gamuda Engineering as a Site Engineer in 2012, she is now a Section Head of Operations. Later this year, she will be taking on a new role with Gamuda Australia.
She shares “From the time I started my career as an engineer, people have always asked me the same questions: how do I balance life and my job? And, how do I cope in a male-dominated industry? I feel that as long as you know what you want to do and that you know what it takes to achieve your goals and ambition, you will find a way to do it. With any career, there are sacrifices. It’s about how you manage it”
We are all responsible and have the privilege to actively choose how we can challenge gender stereotypes, fight biases and broaden our perceptions. We hope, collectively we can help create a gender-equal workforce across various industries – especially in typically male-dominated fields.
Gamuda Women Empowerment Network launch in 2018
With that in mind, we launched the Gamuda Women Empowerment Network (GWEN) in 2018 to support women career advancement through a support network and to ensure strong diverse leadership pipeline for the Group. Read about it here.