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Studying an engineering degree, especially as a female, has meant that I’ve heard a whole boatload of common misconceptions about women engineers. It feels like the second I reveal what course I’m studying, most people seem to think that it reveals many other aspects of my personality. While I won’t deny that some engineers fit the “stereotypical engineering student” quite well, we aren’t all the same. An engineering course is always filled with a diverse group of people.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions I’ve run into about studying an engineering degree:
1. Engineers have no social skills or hobbies other than studying or working.
Quite frankly, this myth has never really made much sense to me. Engineering itself is a very social degree. I can guarantee you won’t be able to find an engineer who always works alone; social skills are a huge requirement as part of the degree. You’ve got to be able to work in groups, large and small, and be able to present your work to others (like companies, managers, customers, etc). Being social is a fundamental skill in any engineering course if you want to be successful. And when it comes to having no hobbies? Well that’s of course wrong! We all have hobbies. We’re humans here, not robots!
2. There are no female engineers.
This myth is easy to break, considering I’m a female engineering student myself. While there’s no denying that it’s not a 50/50 split yet, I wouldn’t say that female presence is sparse in the course either. I’ve never been the only girl in a lecture theatre and there are far more women entering the course now than there were 10 years ago, for example. Females are among the engineering field.
3. “Engineers are only in it for the money.”
Ahh yes, of course! We are clearly in it only for the money because it’s impossible that there are people in the world who may actually enjoy maths and physics, and anything related to an engineering degree. False!
For those who believe engineering students are in it solely for the money – do you actually think that we would put ourselves through years of hard work and hours upon hours of revision, without any bit of enjoyment, for the sole purpose of earning a higher salary? No thank you! I do this degree because I want to, not because I’m after a higher paycheck.
4. “You must be really smart.”
While I don’t believe being in an engineering course is anything like a walk in the park, is any degree? Whenever I say I’m studying mechanical engineering to someone who doesn’t know me, their first reaction is typically something along the lines of “Oh wow, you must be so smart then!” Now, I’m not trying to say I’m stupid, but what makes someone in an engineering course smarter than anyone else? It always amuses me to see how some of my friends think so highly of an engineering degree and how easily they’ll put theirs down in return.
While I may be great at solving math problems or balancing forces on a moving object, that doesn’t mean I’m great at everything! All degrees require clever people. So yes, there may be clever people within my course, but that goes for any other course as well.
5. Engineers are a boring bunch of people.
This is probably the most laughable of the most common misconceptions I run across. I guess this goes along with the fact that some people think engineers don’t have hobbies either. But boring? Really? Let’s get this right – Formula 1 cars, ultra-fast planes, robots, mountain bikes, and a lot of other commonly deemed “fun” and “cool” things are designed by engineers themselves. Now you can try and tell me someone who works on Formula 1 cars is boring, but I wouldn’t believe it for a second!