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Shelbey Sparrow
Professor Robert Arnold
UWRT 1101
11/16/15

Mechanical Engineering Students: Stereotypes

As an engineering student, I have done much research on the different disciplines of


engineering. Though I chose Civil Engineering, I found that Mechanical Engineering has many
different topics involved with it. Mechanical Engineering is a growing field, and there are many
different people who pursue this occupation. In todays society, there are many stereotypes
towards mechanical engineers. In my opinion, these stereotype of students in the mechanical
engineering field are false. Many people believe students studying mechanical engineering are
only male, have a focus in cars, love all things mathematics, are extremely intelligent, are
introverted, and are only in the field for the money, but there are many sources that prove all of
these stereotypes incorrect, and I did my own personal research at many different revenues. I did
research in the Freshman Learning Community for Engineers, at the William States Lee College
of Engineering Job Fair Picnic, a Society for Women Engineers meeting, and in my Introduction
to Engineering: Practices and Principles class.
One of the stereotypes that effects my life the most is the stereotype of engineering being
a male dominated field, is because people believe that women lack knowledge and interest in
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM fields. Being a woman in a previously
male dominated field is very difficult if you dont like criticism. People make comments on
everything you do. Ive heard comments such as She didnt do as well because shes a girl, and

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Cut her some slack shes a female. As a woman in engineering, all we want is equality and
thats hard to receive with such prominent stereotypes. Girls are pressured from a young age to
form hobbies in interests that are more lady-like than these. So older generations tend to form
the stereotypes of the male dominated field. When mechanical engineering first started to
become prevalent in the 17th century with influence from Sir Isaac Newton, being a woman in
any field of work was unheard of. As the mechanical engineering industry began to take off so
did the involvement of women. In a documentary by DuPont from the 1950s the film begins
with a voice over of a man saying This motion picture has been made to help you, you men who
have chosen mechanical engineering (Mechanical Engineering at DuPont). Clearly, when this
film was created the prominence of women in this field was completely unheard of.
As of today, the percentage of women receiving bachelors degrees in Mechanical
engineering is about 20% and growing. (ASEE) Many people even argue that women should be
dominant in the engineering field because of a natural instinct of curiosity. (Why Engineering
Should Be a Woman's Game) Woman may not have a huge presence in mechanical engineering
as of today, but 20% is extremely high compared to 0% at the start of the industry. Even in the
hall of my dorm, half of the women are mechanical engineering majors. Most of my engineering
professors even recognize the growing population of women enrolled in their classes and have
also made comments such as the females tend to run circles around the males, as far as grades
are concerned and women are scientifically better at multi-tasking and have hard work ethics.
The number of women in the field is only going to continue in an increasing pattern as time
continues.

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Women have even made some of the most remarkable discoveries in engineering. Going
back as far as the Civil War, Martha Coston, a 21-year-old widow with four children, developed
a signal system so ships could light up their locations on both sea and land. One of the most
travelled pieces of highway I-10 and 405 was developed by a female engineer, Marilyn
Jorgensen Reece. Reece was also the first women to earn a full license as a civil engineer in the
state of California in 1954. (Briseno) Even Facebooks current director of engineering, Jocelyn
Goldfein, is female (Bort).
Secondly, it seems that mechanical engineering is solely represented in the field of
motorsports and cars. This is because mechanical engineering is literally the branch of
engineering dealing with the design, construction, and use of machines. So many mechanical
engineers do know a lot about automobile engines as machines, but people look over the fact that
many things are considered machines, not just vehicles. Machines are used in almost every field
of work, because our modern world is very reliant on technology and machines to get work done.
Most mechanical engineers dont work with vehicles in their careers at all.
By my own research, 15% of the mechanical engineering students I spoke with wanted
to pursue a concentration in motorsports. Many of the students leaned towards either having no
concentration or wanted to go into a biomedical field. Mechanical engineering has many
concentration besides motorsports. Some of them include, biomedical, energy, aerospace,
manufacturing, and nanotechnology (Concentrations-Mechanical Engineering). The motorsports
industry also has the lowest rate of hiring for all mechanical concentrations, because many large
motorsports companies are incredibly hard to get into. Biomedical engineering is considered one
of the top 25 in demand jobs and fastest growing jobs in the U.S. and will continue to get larger,

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so many students are choosing this as a concentration (Campus Explorer). Furthermore, with a
mechanical engineering degree you could acquire a career in investment banking, become a
patent attorney or go into different branches of engineering like, mining engineers, water
engineers, and technical sales engineers.
Many people also believe that most people are only going into the engineering field for
the money. This stereotype is developed by people because engineers typically make pretty
opulent salaries. An average salary for an engineer at starting level is from $60,000-$75,000 a
year, and this number continues to rise with experience with an average engineer in any
discipline receiving a yearly salary of about $90,000 (Civil Engineer). Even though the salaries
are a plus in todays society, in my research and surveys I only came across two people who said
that the major reason as to why they wanted to go into an engineering field. Many students said
that their main passion in life was to help people and going into an engineering field would help
this. With companies like Engineers without Borders, Society for Women Engineers, and
American Association of Engineering Societies, there are always ongoing projects to help other
people. I also encountered students who just had a huge interest in whatever concentration that
were pursuing, whether they simply liked to put things together or find something like energy
interesting. Although these large salaries are a huge plus, almost all engineering students who
end up having a successful career, do it for the love of their field.
Many people ruminate that engineers have very introverted personalities and do nothing
but sit and work, and that all engineers are a stereotypical nerd, and though some fall under
this category being a successful engineer requires an extreme amount of social skills, and
personality. According to Ron Smelser in How to Build Better Engineers, he states that in his

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25 years in the field of engineering he spent at least 50% of his time communicating with others.
Many engineering jobs also involve working with teams to develop an idea. People who are
extremely introverted would have trouble with this amount of interaction. People who chose to
study mechanical engineering can have all different types of personalities, not just strictly
introverts.
There are also many clubs and organizations that prove that engineers dont lack social
skills. On The University of North Carolina at Charlottes campus has more than 20
organizations strictly for and run by engineering students and faculty. These include Society for
Women engineers (SWE), American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and Theta Tau
Professional Co-ed Engineering Fraternity, Tau Alpha Pi Engineering Technology Honor Society,
and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. Some people may argue that these are groups
strictly for engineers so they only have to interact with other engineers, but Theta Tau, SWE,
ASME and many other organizations have many opportunities to volunteer in our community
and within our campus. These are also just a few organizations on UNCCs campus, many other
national organizations exist. Also talking with employers, at the William States Lee College of
Engineering Job Fair Picnic, employers from Duke Energy and Eaton Corporation, said that
many times that even if a student applying for a job has a perfect GPA, if they dont have the
personality and social skills that theyre looking for they will not hire them, but if a student
comes in with a great personality and communication skills with a lower GPA they are much
more likely to be hired.
Another stereotype that exists is that mechanical engineering is primarily math and that a
mechanical engineering student must be tremendously good at math to pursue a career in

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mechanical engineering, but one of the first things they teach you in Introduction to Engineering
during your freshman year of undergraduate engineering school is that math is not all
engineering is about. The third lecture of the class is even titled Engineering is all about math?
Wrong! In Ron Smelsers How to Build Better Engineers, In a survey of 1995 graduates from
University of Idaho College of Engineering 100% of the responders thought that more of an
emphasis should be put on either written communication or oral communication and a little less
on math, because that is whats necessary in todays society.
A final stereotype about mechanical engineering students are vastly more intelligent than
almost all over majors of students. Many people believe that mechanical engineering is
extremely difficult and superior to other majors and engineering because all the different areas
mechanical engineers have to be familiar with in order to do their jobs. Mechanical engineers
also have to study most types of engineering at least a little at some point in their academic
careers. This stereotype of mechanical engineers being superior to all others is believed not only
by the general public and mechanical engineers themselves. However, a study by the statistic
brain research institute shows that mechanical engineers have an average IQ of about 126, which
is in the very superior intelligence range, its still not as high as the average for Physics &
Astronomy, Philosophy, Mathematical Sciences, Materials Engineering, Economics, and
Chemical Engineering.
As many people believe these stereotypes to be true, people who chose to study
mechanical engineering are from all different walks of life, with all different passions, all
different personalities, and all different motives. As Terrence Howard says, I am an engineer,
but what I find important and necessary is that you just learn things as you go along, the only

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thing that is the same between all mechanical engineers is the desire to learn and make the world
a better place. The mechanical engineering community should not be stereotyped into any
category because every person who chooses to possess a career in this field is different from one
another.

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References
Bort, Julie. "The 25 Most Powerful Women Engineers In Tech." Business Insider. Business
Insider, Inc, 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.businessinsider.com/25powerful-women-engineers-2013-3?op=1>.
Briseno, Terri. How Stuff Works. HowStuffWorks.com. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
<http://science.howstuffworks.com/engineering/structural/10-women-inengineering.htm#page=11>.
"Campus Explorer." Top 25 In Demand Jobs and Fastest Growing Occupations. Web. 7 Dec.
2015. <http://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/76DB6BDB/Top-25-InDemand-Jobs-and-Fastest-Growing-Occupations/>.
"Civil Engineer: Salary." Civil Engineer Salary Information. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
<http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/civil-engineer/salary>.
"Concentrations Mechanical Engineering | Boston University." Mechanical Engineering RSS.
Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.bu.edu/me/academics/undergraduate/concentrations/>.
"Mechanical Engineering at DuPont - 1950s Chemical Company Educational Documentary WDTVLIVE42." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhZRfELo5MU>.
Web. 6 Dec. 2015. <http://www.asee.org/papers-and-publications/publications/collegeprofiles/2011-profile-engineering-statistics.pdf>.
"Why Engineering Should Be a Woman's Game - BBC News." BBC News. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
<http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-30876899>.