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STEM Programs: An Effective Path for Women in Engineering

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A study from Thomas and Women in Manufacturing finds that STEM programs provide the surest pathway for women entering engineering.

A new benchmark study produced by Thomas Industrial Research and Women in Manufacturing on career advancement in the North American manufacturing industry identifies key factors contributing to talent acquisition and retention in manufacturing. The results show that STEM programs indeed work. These programs are the leading entryway for women in engineering.

Researchers surveyed more than 660 manufacturing companies to better understand industry makeup, career and recruitment opportunities, desired benefits and training options, and industry attitudes and perceptions. Our expert report uncovers the following:

  • Industry Entry Points: STEM programs are the most effective pathway for women to enter the manufacturing industry.
  • Retention Opportunities: Training programs have had the most significant impact on career advancement. 
  • Career Affinity: 75% of women and 80% of men are likely or very likely to recommend a career in manufacturing.

To help explore the issues concerning women in engineering, we caught up with an engineer at maxon. Angelica Perzan is a sales engineer at maxon USA. She singled out mentorship as a major factor that encourage her in the path to engineering.

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Design News: In your career as an engineer, were you inspired to enter engineering (or move upward in engineering) due to a woman engineer mentor?

Angelica Perzan: When I was an incoming student at University, I recalled being recruited by female upperclassmen to join the Society of Women Engineers. At this time, my path was no more defined than me simply writing down “Mechanical Engineering” in the empty field asking me to declare a major. As a meek 17-year-old trying to navigate this new chapter of her life, these upperclassmen became mentors without even attempting to do so. These women broke the stereotype of what an engineer “should be” and were prepared to support those younger than them with their studies, professionalism, and how to navigate being a woman in a classroom full of men.

DN: How important has teamwork been in your development as an engineer?

Angelica Perzan: Teamwork has been a critical component of my development as an engineer. With being a team member of a global organization, maxon inc., opportunities for collaboration emerge in many ways. I often joke with my co-workers and say that “teamwork makes the dream work.” Although this saying is overplayed, I truly stand by it.

If it had not been for the teams I was part of at the start of my career, I would not be at this point in my profession at my age. The leadership roles my senior “teammates” adopted were a key component of my development. These individuals mentored me, but always challenged me in ways that I did not know I would be able to thrive in. They saw potential in me before I did.

DN: Do you feel you’ve received support as a woman in engineering (either in school or work)?

Angelica Perzan: I have been extremely fortunate in the support I have received both during University and my career. Likewise, my family has always been my foundation and reinforced me with every decision I have made. At University, I had an academic advisor who was always willing to offer her advice.

Now in my career at maxon, I am consistently urged to ask for support whenever needed. Most recently maxon has set forth an initiative to help connect the women in engineering across the globe. When Covid-19 required us to social distance and question what the months would bring, we were able to come together in ways we had not done so in the past – it was remarkable.  

DN: What changes do you look forward to for women in engineering?

Angelica Perzan: I look forward to seeing more and more women emerge in engineering. In my current role, I meet with engineers across the upper Northeast to discuss their applications and determine how maxon can support them. In my seven years, the number of female engineers that I have worked with is remarkably small.

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