Women in Control Automation and Your Pathway into STEM
What is the current state of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and how can you become a control systems engineer?
In this article, we will explore the current state of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and provide an overview of some of the pioneering women of the 20th century that contributed to fields associated with control systems today. We will also cover resources that provide a stepping stone into STEM education, development, and leadership, providing an overview of the role of a control systems engineer in specific industrial settings.
Women have played valuable roles in the development of computer, electrical, and control system industries. Image used courtesy of chenspec on Pixabay
Statistics on Women in STEM
According to the Science and Engineering Indicators report (2022) women represented about 34% of all STEM workers in 2019. The report also showed that women comprised about 44% of STEM workers with at least a bachelor’s degree, which rose by 2% since 2010. Between 2010 and 2019, the proportion of female STEM workers without a bachelor’s degree remained at 26%. Although the filtration of women into the manufacturing and engineering workforce is slow compared to that of the life sciences, it is happening and is set to bring a welcomed technological and social change.
Inspirational Women of the 19th Century
In a previous article in March 2021, we explored the past to unveil a few key female pioneers in the control automation space, of whom yielded their knowledge of mathematics, science, and industry to innovate. One such notable individual was Ada Lovelace whose talents fell within mathematics, science, and languages, acquainting her with education from mentors including Mary Somerville and Charles Babbage. Ada translated one of Babbage’s articles on analytical engines which led her to propose the use of a binary number system for the operation of his early mechanical computer. Effectively, she wrote the first computer program in the world!
Another leading lady was Lillian Gilbreth. Together with her husband (an American engineer) she developed the method time-and-motion study, intended to increase industrial employee efficiency. This enabled the Gilbreths to measure the movements and time needed for workers to complete certain tasks. From this work, a foundation of knowledge has been built for what we now know as modern-day work and industrial process management.
Finding Your Path Into STEM
For young female learners (and any student, for that matter) that are just beginning their journey towards a STEM career, it is important to collect a pool of trustworthy and informative resources that detail what a career in STEM may look and feel like. Organizations such as Women in Technology International (WITI) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) are great resources for exploring the world of technology and engineering from a female perspective. WITI is a leading authority of women in technology and business with a large ecosystem of three million professionals, 60 networks, and 300 partners, worldwide. The platform provides users with coaching and mentorship, webinars, speaking engagements, continuing education, virtual summits, a job board, a bookstore, and more.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) provides valuable career resources. Image used courtesy of SWE
SWE provides a STEM Pathways youth program with a dedicated digital library that includes descriptions of specific STEM jobs, details of how engineers make a positive difference in their field, education requirements and starting salary information, role model interviews, and information concerning how to become an engineer. Engineering job categories range from civil, mechanical, electrical, software, chemical, and biomedical. Like WITI, SWE also offers events for networking and career/leadership development in engineering. Joining SWE as a member also provides further opportunities to join workspace groups and professional development and training. Other organizations that can serve as an invaluable resource include the Association for Women in Mathematics and the Association of Women in Science.
A control systems engineer (usually with an electrical or mechanical background) is responsible for designing, developing, and implementing solutions that provide a degree of stability for changing systems. In an automotive context, an example of this could be in the design, development, and implementation of systems responsible for controlling the behavior of a car’s brakes in various conditions of speed, temperature, etc. In manufacturing, a control systems engineer designs and improves high-tech automated production lines. The engineer works on integrating and coordinating robots, vision systems, sensors, and human components for the production line to ensure efficiency and maximum output.
With the fundamentals of control systems relying on mechanical and software engineering, as well as mathematics, the areas available for specialization are broad. Individuals looking to enter into a career in control systems can work in aerospace, pharmaceutical, robotics, automotive, chemical, materials industries, and more.