How NVBPELS Is Supporting Efforts to Diversify Engineering
“What innovation or invention is the world missing out on because engineering lacks diversity?”
To tackle diversity, the national and local focus is women in STEM. NVBPELS Executive Director, Patty Mamola, is taking action to get young women interested in STEM fields. For example, twice a month she visits Hunter Lake Elementary, an underprivileged school in Reno, to introduce the girls there to exciting STEM concepts, like robotics. That’s because part of NVBPEL’s role is to support diversifying the engineering talent pool, and that talent pool most certainly includes girls and women.
This is one of the reasons we fully support Eweek. It’s designed to introduce the profession of engineering to youth who wouldn’t necessarily have exposure to a career in this field, and one of the most under-represented groups is women. In fact, women only account for 20% of engineering graduates and that number drops in half every decade following graduation.
In honor of EWeek, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways the NVBPELS is working to attract—and retain—more female engineers.
1. START WORKING WITH GIRLS AT A YOUNG AGE
The younger the girls are when they are exposed to the different opportunities in STEM fields, the better. A study by Microsoft shows that females tend to lose interest in STEM-related coursework and hobbies at about the age of 15. By the time these young women begin thinking about college choice, higher education majors and career paths, it might be too late to get them to consider science-related fields. It’s therefore imperative to start the conversation early and talk often about how much there is to gain from the vast opportunities in these fields of study.
2. FOCUSING ON THE BREADTH OF OPPORTUNITY ENGINEERING OFFERS
The most female-dominated fields tend to be about nurturing, care-giving and service. Think: teaching, nursing and social work. If women gravitate toward nurturing careers and we want to bring more women into stem-related fields, we have to promote the fact that engineers and scientists play a huge rule in supporting life, health and well-being. For example, Engineers Without Borders pairs an engineer with college students, and they work together to provide life-saving solutions to problems, such as a shortage of clean drinking water in third-world countries or high infant mortality rates among the most impoverished world populations. These are exactly the kinds of challenges at which we need to throw every available resource, including the valuable insights and thought processes women bring to the table. But we need to expose young women to all of these opportunities to help them understand exactly how much they can change the world by going into a career in engineering.
3. MAKE LICENSURE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO WOMEN
One of the ways that NVBPELS is trying to attract and retain talent is by making the licensing process more accessible. One strategy decoupling the requirements for taking the licensure exam. Previously, we required professional engineers to get four years of engineering experience prior to taking the professional engineering exam (PE). This created a barrier to entry for those who decided to start a family and interrupt their four years of experience. The exam pass rates are shown to steadily decrease with increased lapsed time after graduation. The new regulations state that an engineer may take the professional exam as soon as they feel that they are ready, so they can work that timing around their life plans as well as their career.
JOIN US IN OUR DIVERSITY GOALS
The Nevada Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors will continue to work towards a more diverse representation of engineers and, as a part of Eweek, we’re challenging all of YOU to find something you can do to introduce more women to the field of engineering or improve retention by supporting women co-workers. Even something as simple as sharing this post can help make more professionals aware of the situation and start thinking about what THEY can do. Let’s work together for a more balanced future in Nevada professional engineering.