The class, at
Moerchen previously worked two years at
The lack of women in manufacturing was something he wanted to address in the classroom.
Women comprise more than 20% of engineering school graduates but only 11% of practicing engineers, according to the
"If we are going to have any hope of replacing all of the retiring baby boomers, we have to get women involved," Moerchen said.
"It's a pretty wide gender gap," Moerchen said, adding that only about three of 35 students in computer-aided machining courses are female.
"The data show that female students are easily intimidated by technology and engineering classes that are traditionally dominated by male students," Moerchen said.
After researching programs in other states, the Kewaskum teachers said they believed they could create an engineering class specifically for girls that would prepare the students for advanced courses.
The class covers basic mechanical design, using three-dimensional software, the history of women in engineering and manufacturing, and career options.
The 17 girls enrolled in the
"I don't necessarily think we have failed if they don't go into engineering as a career. But I think we would be failing if we didn't provide them with an opportunity to explore it," Moerchen said.
Cultural stereotypes prevail
Getting rid of the stereotypes that men are better suited for careers in engineering and manufacturing would help attract more women to those fields, said
Only about 25% of the students enrolled at MSOE are women, and much of that is because of the nursing program.
"As early as grade school, we have socialized children to think that certain things are for boys and certain things are for girls. We need to change that in our culture," Yauch said.
Getting into the field doesn't always equate to success, either.
Women are more likely to quit engineering jobs because of an uncomfortable work environment than for family reasons, according to a
Nearly half of the women surveyed who left the engineering field said it was because of working conditions and issues such as a lack of career advancement and low salary.
Yet high-paying jobs are going unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants, said
"We need more engineers in general, and we need more women in the profession. If we aren't tapping into half of the population, we're missing out," she said.
Support, encouragement critical
DelVecchio has a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from
She has been in the engineering field more than 20 years and says she was inspired by her parents and high school math and science teachers.
"I did not grow up in a family of engineers, but I had supportive parents who knew I was good at math and science. And I had teachers who made it fun. I never felt like it was odd or that I was out of place for liking it," she said.
Gerczak has a bachelor's degree in metallurgical and materials engineering from
For young people who don't have that kind of exposure, a class like women in engineering is helpful, Gerczak said.
"Otherwise, I don't think they even realize what the careers can be like," she said.
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