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spacefem's non-engineer survey

I was giving my diversity presentation to some higher-ups when one of them asked, "What can we do to encourage more of your generation to go into engineering?" I don't think he understood how huge a question that was. I mean, people are doing phd dissertations on that. The number of engineering students in America has plummeted in recent years.

But it got me thinking - maybe there are some obvious reasons why fewer people want to be engineers these days. So with your help I'd like to do a short informal survey, maybe I'll have a more brilliant answer some time. Or maybe this will start some grand lifetime of exploration where I solve the problems of our day. I really want to know your reason for not being an engineer. I'm not going to debate you, I know that other careers are incredibly important, this isn't set up to try to make you an engineer, I'm just curious. So be honest in your reply. And if you can recruit some friends to reply to me, that'd help too. Here's what I'd like to know...

Age:
Gender:
What country you're from:
Are you smart?
Your college major:
If you're going to be an engineer, what got you to join our ranks?
If you chose a science/technology/math field outside from engineering, why didn't you go with engineering?
And finally, the important one... If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why?

Comments

( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
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wildirishrose80
Mar. 21st, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Country: USA
Am I smart?: That depends on your point of view...I used to think so.
College major: Computer Science
I actually DID start out as a mechanical engineering major...I switched majors mostly because I couldn't deal with the professors (I know, that's the dumbest reason to change majors). I went with computer science because I had liked the programming classes I took in high school, and even though nobody uses FORTRAN anymore, I thought it'd be fun to continue with that.
tara3056
Mar. 21st, 2008 12:33 pm (UTC)
Age - 26
Gender - F
Country - USA
Smart? Undoubtedly
College major - History w/ minors in psychology & philosophy
If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why? Sure.

History was and is my passion. I'm not in school at all anymore but I still do research and even write papers on various topics. I'm nerdy like that. I've always been extremely liberal-artsy - I want to know where we've been and where we might go, and I concentrate more on how humans have dealt with and changed the history of the world rather than thinking in terms of absolutes and scientific proofs and rules. Science and math are mildly interesting to me and I got mostly As in them, but they don't inspire strong feelings like other subjects do. My husband is a hardcore (computer) engineer who loves the hard sciences. He thinks I'm brilliant and I think likewise of him, but his intelligence is narrow but deep while mine is perhaps less deep but far more broad. We complement each other well, and in a larger sense, I think that holds true too. I wouldn't want to live in a world filled with nothing but engineers, that's for sure, but I also wouldn't want to be surrounded by nothing but liberal artsy people.

I will say though that, unfortunately, I think liberal arts get the shaft here in the US in favor of sciences (hell, even my degree came from 'Iowa State Univ of Science and Technology') so I'm not sure I'd want more young people to go into engineering. I love being in Europe, where being a Philosophy professor or being a writer is just as respected as being a software developer. The more our country concentrates on tech, the richer we get, but I can't help but think we're slowly losing something vital and soul-fulfilling as the years go by. The quality of life in, say, Rome or Paris appeals to me more than that in, say, Tokyo or Hong Kong.
feanelwa
Mar. 21st, 2008 12:34 pm (UTC)
Age: 25
Gender: female
Country: UK
Smart: people seem to think so
College major: I have a degree in Natural Sciences specialising in Materials Science. This means I have little bits of physics, chemistry, maths and geology, but mainly materials science.
Why didn't I go with engineering: When I was at school nobody told me engineering existed. When other girls showed an interest in biology people encouraged them to go into medicine. When I showed an interest in physics and putting things together and designing things they encouraged me to go into medicine. So I told them to stick it and went into physics, but if I had known there was a thing you could study called Engineering I might have chosen that.
becksterminator
Mar. 21st, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
Age: 20
Gender: female
What country you're from: USA
Are you smart? yes
Your college major: political science and gender studies, econ minor
And finally, the important one... If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why?

I thought I was a science person because I was good in all the math and science AP classes in high school (I took 6 of them). Also, my whole family is math/sciencey: dad is a math professor, mom is a computer programmer, sister is in the biophysics PhD program at harvard. So then I went to college and I realized I didn't like science and math classes but I did like political science and gender studies classes so I majored in them. I've always been more adept with words than with calculations and things like that. It was kind of difficult to transition to social science humanities and convince myself that I still had job prospects (which I don't really, let's be honest).
tropicanana
Mar. 21st, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)
Age: 23
Gender:F
What country you're from: USA
Your college major: International Studies

And finally, the important one... If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why?

I always preferred liberal artsy majors. I loved chemistry in high school, but some of my friends were really smart and took especially high level chem and physics classes... i just didn't think i could cut it against them. (I later found out that in the real world, you don't need to be necessarily a genius to go into the sciences.) Also, proofs in college kind of turned me off to math. (Too elusive!) I did relatively well in college math, but I still preferred more essay-focused liberal arts-type classes.

But, being an engineer wasn't an unheard of as a life choice at my high school. I definitely knew people who knew they wanted to be engineers and followed that path. Females as well..

mdaniel
Mar. 21st, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC)
Age: 32
Gender: male
Country of Origin: USA
Smart: enough
College Major: Computer Science
If you chose a science/technology/math field outside from engineering, why didn't you go with engineering?

Mine field is pretty complicated since I have a "Science" degree, but my application thereof is termed "Software Engineering". Yet, as others are fond of pointing out, it's not a real engineering discipline since it is not regulated (any Jane or Joe Schmoe can proclaim themselves a Software Engineer, and trust me, a lot of them do).

Here in Australia, they claim they are having a real brain drain since so many of the high school grads are seeking degrees in accounting or other silliness, or going into the service industry. I don't have any figures to back up their anecdotes, but based on how much trouble we've had hiring in Australia, it passed the straight-face test.

I mentioned that to show that it's not just the US that's having a problem with lack of science/engineering disciplines.
velshtein
Mar. 21st, 2008 01:25 pm (UTC)
Age: 20
Gender: Female
What country you're from: USA
Are you smart? Yeah.
Your college major: Geology

If you chose a science/technology/math field outside from engineering, why didn't you go with engineering?

Geology is interesting to me because of my interest in earth processes as well as the fact that I'm not as strong in math, as I am in physics or chemistry. Engineering always seemed like it involved tons of math and I didn't really have the patience to work at that, to improve. When I entered college I was stuck between deciding to go into biology or geology, since those were the only things that sounded interesting. And biology just reminded me of medicine and the fact that I'd rather deal with non-living things, so I went with geology.

Engineering, from the engineering friends I have, sounds like getting into building and designing things. Which is really cool but I just never had an interest in.
forthwritten
Mar. 21st, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)
Age: 23
Gender: Female
What country you're from: UK
Are you smart? People seem to think so
Your college major: BA in English Language and Literature, MA in Corpus Linguistics

And finally, the important one... If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why?

I've always found maths problematic. At school I was an all-rounder and did well in science up to 16, was encouraged to take sciences for A-level and did extremely badly in them. As part of my salvage operation I did lots of humanities courses and found I was quite good at them, then drifted into my current field which is a mixture of linguistics and computer science. While I usually approach things from a humanities perspective (although I'm teaching myself Python), I like the rigorous, data driven approach.

I think if I was better at maths I would have gone into one of the hard sciences - my sister studies astrophysics and I'm fascinated by what she does. Nearly everyone in my family is science-medicine-business so it's kind of difficult and no one actually understands what I do.
forthwritten
Mar. 21st, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
Oh - and while I went to an all-girls school, it was very very science and tech orientated. It's now a Specialist Science College and I never was told that being a girl should hold me back - if anything, we were firmly pushed in the direction of sciences and people who were good at humanities and arts were ignored. There was a junior engineering challenge when we were 16-18 and one of my best friends did a BSc and is doing an MSc in Civil Engineering, so in my case it definitely wasn't lack of awareness that girls could be engineers.
kungfoogirl
Mar. 21st, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
Age: 34 (ugh!)
Gender: Female
Country: U.S.
Smart?: I think so.
College Major: Neuropsychology
Engineer: N/A
Science:
You know, I avoided science in high school. I did art. I distinctly remember being in 10th grade and doing really well in my Biology course. The teacher was reading off our point totals so that we knew our grades. He read mine, and it was a C. And then he realized he forgot to add in one of our test, giving me a high B or an A or something. And I remember being teased so bad. It upset me enough that I took the lower track Chemistry the next year. By the time I was a senior, I had kinda hit my rebellious stage and decided that I liked science and I was going to do it anyways. And that followed me all the way through college and in to the work force. I work as a computer programmer now.


On a separate note, I'm in my first year of law school and my appellate brief assignment has made me think of you. I have been assigned to represent a hypothetical university similar to MIT or Georgia Tech. They are being sued by a boy that was denied admission to a summer camp for girls that was designed to encourage girls to get involved in engineering. The boy is suing under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. It's VERY fascinating stuff. And I find myself being a little bit too aggressive when advocating for my client. It's an issue that's very important to me.
kampsvr
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC)
I'm jealous that your appellate brief is on something interesting! Mine was on economic duress over a quitclaim deed.
easter
Mar. 21st, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Age: 32
Gender: F
What country you're from: USA
Are you smart? Yes
Your college major: English/concentration in Medieval Studies
If you're going to be an engineer, what got you to join our ranks? n/a
If you chose a science/technology/math field outside from engineering, why didn't you go with engineering? n/a
And finally, the important one... If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why? I'm number dyslexic, but was undiagnosed until college. I thought I was just slow at math, and I disliked math because of I was always behind other people in comprehension skills.
selfunderstared
Mar. 21st, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
Age: 19
Gender: Female
What country you're from: USA
Are you smart? Yeah, I think so.
Your college major: Graphic Design
If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why?
While I did well enough in math & science in grade/high school, I was stronger in art & english. I enjoy working in visual communication, but I think my grade school education really encouraged me to bulk up my artsy intelligence more than my math/science. In art I recieved praise because my drawing skills were just better than other kids my age, but in math I had to stay on fractions long after I'd understood the concept and grew bored with it. When I was placed in the pull-out 'gifted' program we didn't study much in the way of pre-engineering subjects; the only 'math' i can remember taking was several weeks on logic puzzles. Most of the subjects were english & history based.
zonk
Mar. 21st, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
Age: 37
Gender: Male
What country you're from: United States
Are you smart? Depends on who you ask.
Your college major: Music Education

Graduated with a Masters Degree in Music Education almost ten years ago. I was never interested in math or science in high school, though I find myself more interested in how things work now. Maybe it's the whole "Mythbusters" thing or something. The math and science courses I did have to take in college were almost foreign to me, at least at the time. I think I have more application for them in my life now than I did then. Doing it all over again, would I take the path, probably.
loden
Mar. 21st, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
I definitely could have gone into engineering, as I (by choice) took a lot of extra math and science classes in high school, and generally enjoyed them and did very well in them. While I did consider computer science and math as majors back then, I never seriously considered engineering, and am still not sure why (or have forgotten). I guess I'm one of the people you're talking about!

Age: 21
Gender: female
What country you're from: US
Are you smart? yes
Your college major: biology (ecology/evolution)
If you chose a science/technology/math field outside from engineering, why didn't you go with engineering?
At some point I turned away from "hard" science, I think because I was both lazy and intimidated. I knew that I could do well if I put a lot of work into it, but I was reluctant to put the work in. Even aside from that, though, when I was looking at colleges I knew I wasn't interested in engineering, though I did look at engineering schools with other programs. Maybe it just seemed like too much complicated calculation - not pure and simple enough. I eventually decided against attending a tech school because I wanted a more well-rounded education. Who knows, though - if I had gone to one, I might have studied engineering after all (and right now, I'm thinking wistfully of a degree that would provide me with a good job right after graduation).
litlebanana
Mar. 21st, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC)
Age: 28
Gender: female
What country you're from: US
Are you smart? Not sure anymore
Your college major: Math
If you're going to be an engineer, what got you to join our ranks? NA
If you chose a science/technology/math field outside from engineering, why didn't you go with engineering? Because despite having taken an engineering course in college (called operations research or something) which I liked, I had no idea what an engineer actually did or if it would be something I'd like to do. I'm still not totally sure. Actually, in retrospect, it might have been a good career for me because I'm not thrilled with the career I picked, but I guess we'll never know.
And finally, the important one... If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why? NA
kwins
Mar. 21st, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
I already am an engineer. I'll answer for my husband.

Age: 28
Gender: M
What country you're from: US
Are you smart? Yes
Your college major: Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering
If you're going to be an engineer, what got you to join our ranks? --
If you chose a science/technology/math field outside from engineering, why didn't you go with engineering? He majored in it, but once he got a job he found it to be very boring. He decided he wanted to work with science AND people... not just chemicals and equipment (and other people working with chemicals and equipment). He left his job to go back to school and become a teacher. He now teaches chemistry and physics and loves it.
And finally, the important one... If you avoided science/tech/math/eng altogether, can you say why? --
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( 58 comments — Leave a comment )

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