In the conclusion of her article “From ‘Engineeresses’ to ‘Girl Engineers’ to ‘Good Engineers,’” Amy Bix points out a surprising inconsistency in the tendency of women engineers to consider themselves feminists. Though many “embraced the philosophy of feminism,
others actively rejected the label” (43).  I find this contradiction odd due to their position as women in what was a traditionally masculine field. Despite their own perceptions of themselves, these women who discard the term “feminist” from their identity still function as feminist role model for younger generations of girls.

Second wave feminism in the 1970’s was so fresh and radical that it created an additional stress in some female engineer’s lives. There was a false dichotomy established that seemed to force women to choose between their professional and their personal lives. Because engineering was male-dominated and conservative, there was a very real pressure to reject feminism so that women’s job security and work environment remained relatively at peace. Still, as Bix argues, “such women benefited from the efforts of activists who did identify with the feminist movement” because activist work attempted to gain respect and awareness for all working women rather than just members of organizations (43).

Feminism is a complex ideology, but boils down to political, social, educational, and economic autonomy for women, which ideally results in an equality of the sexes. Female engineers of the 1970’s obtained economic autonomy in the sense that they were not financially dependent on a man. They were also progressing in terms of educational autonomy. Neither of these facts depended on whether the engineer thought of herself as a feminist. No matter what she believes about herself, she is a woman making her way in a traditionally male field that a younger girl can point to and say “she did it.”  Because she acted against the grain of the original system, benefited from feminist successes, and set an example, she is an effective role model and feminist icon.