In the last century, women engineers have faced a number of opportunities and challenges that Amy Bix described throughout her lecture. Overall, women in engineering stood out as an anomaly because historically, engineering has been a very male dominated profession. It’s important to note that even in Webster’s Dictionary from 1959, the definition of ‘engineer’ consisted only of “a man,” signifying that women could never be considered an engineer. Because of this, women’s education seldom consisted of engineering as well – they were trained in other sciences like mathematics, science, etc. – however engineering was almost never a part of their college learning. In fact, women in engineering were such rare occurrences that when women would attend engineering courses, it made front page news portrayed as women invading men’s classes.

This changed, however, after World War II. Women became in high demand as they were able to provide help during the war effort, abandon their college learning, and take on intensive engineering training to provide immediate support to companies. Suddenly, companies were desperate to have women on their factory lines. Businesses would pay for these women’s training and college, which was a tremendous opportunity for women that they never received before. So, this allowed women to justify engineering as their contribution to the war effort during WWII. This increasing success continued to inspire women to seek out engineering studies.

However, there was persistent skepticism through postwar backlash. Critics would claim that women did not have the basic capabilities to succeed in engineering. Women were not allowed to be admitted into certain colleges and faced embarrassment and ridicule in the form of cartoons, newspaper articles, and more. The assumption that engineering was for men held strong and women as a group were slandered for their interest, even going as far as to refer to women as sex objects and dates rather than their own intelligent engineers.

Women worked to overcome this by a strong, powerful push in the assumptions about who can and who should go into engineering. There was expanded employment and education for women with a strong backing from the feminist movement, civil rights laws, and more. New legislation was added to the U.S. Government to promote gender equality overall and within engineering. Women began exploring more and more STEM degrees and continued to develop as smart and independent engineers.