Producing Powerful Women Engineers

Only about 5.8% of engineers in the United States are women.  That’s a statistic that helps motivate Emily Keller, a manufacturing technology operations management (MTOM) student at North Central State College.

While working at a local factory she admired the work being done on large machines by the engineers.  “After I had my daughter, I went back to working second shift and worked alongside some of the engineers in the factory,” Keller explains.  “Watching them work and how they operated, fascinated me.”

Keller, a single mom, knew she wanted a better life that would provide her with the training she needed to make her goals a reality.  She enrolled in classes at North Central State College and has been working towards that goal ever since.

“The classes I have taken so far have been amazing.  I’ve learned how to read blue prints, how to use a 3-D printer, and so many other skills I need for my future career,” Keller says.  “I’ve learned so much about software and how the machines work.”

Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences.

Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce.  Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (62%) and biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%).

As for being a woman in a predominately male career path, Keller says she sees it as an advantage.  “I have a lot of classes where I am the ONLY female in my class,” Keller says.  “I would tell any female looking into being a part of the MTOM major to not be afraid.  Trust your gut.  You can do anything you put your mind to, whether it’s a male dominated career or not.  I believe I have found my true passion.”

Nearly 100% of NC State graduates in this field are employed.  There is a growing need for graduates with drafting and design skills.  The MTOM program teaches hands on skills that employers need.

Beginning in fall 2019, students may also enroll to complete the Bachelor of Applied Science Mechanical Engineering Technology, the first bachelor’s program approved for NC State College.  The coursework continues the hands-on learning concepts developed in partnership with area businesses.

“I was very interested in engineering.  If you have that motivation, pursue it,” Keller encourages.  “There are so many people at North Central State College that will help you get through it and help you succeed.  Once you make those connections, especially at this college, they are for life.”