Power Lines Blog

Get the g(irls) into EnGineering


A public power utility is owned by the community it serves. One of our goals should be for the utility to employ a workforce that reflects the diversity of that community.

Easier said than done. Especially when you consider that women make up nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population and 47 percent of the nation’s labor force. But the number of women in electricity technical and operational jobs is so statistically insignificant that you can’t even attach a percentage to it.

Mike Hyland, the American Public Power Association’s senior vice president of engineering services, was talking last week about an old “G into EnGineering” campaign to get more girls into engineering. “It’s time to get it going again,” he said.

This year, Girl Day (Feb. 26) falls within Engineers Week (Feb. 22-28). But we shouldn’t focus on girls just one day, and on their opportunities in engineering just one week in a year. Public power utilities can take the lead year-round in hiring more women for engineering jobs.

But wait. Are there even enough qualified women out there to hire?

Sadly, women are a workforce minority in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — professions at a time when the U.S. Department of Commerce expects the four fields to grow at twice the rate of other professions by 2018. Men dominate the sciences and make up more than 55 percent of mathematicians and statisticians, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

I have done my part though. My daughter works for the Science Friday radio show. Where else can you find a Valentine that says “You augment my reality” besides the Science Friday website!?

Engineering has the lowest percentage of women at 14 percent. So public power needs to do more. We need to start young. We need to educate our communities about engineering as a career option for women.

Let’s get out there into the schools in our communities and tell girls why engineering can be a rewarding career. Parents and teachers should know about engineering as a career choice. Let’s get our engineers out into the community to share their experiences. Let’s use the power of social media to reach our young people where they are — with pictures of engineers at work on Instagram and Twitter/Vine videos where engineers tell you how to be cool.

I know that many public power utilities have energy services programs you already offer to schools in your community to teach about electric safety, energy efficiency, renewables, etc. Why not add a “G in EnGineering” component into programs you already run to tell girls about engineering as a career option?

Michele Suddleson, director of APPA’s DEED — Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments — program, reminded me of the importance of mentoring. Are there engineers — especially women — in technical jobs at your utility that can mentor young girls who may be interested in pursuing a career in engineering?

Michele is spearheading the expansion of APPA’s mentoring and career development programs to encourage public power employees to mentor young people and nurture future public power employees.

This week, APPA staff (and #CaptainPublicPower) will celebrate Engineers Week with a cake for DEED’s 35th birthday. We’re sorry we can’t have you all over. But we want to share the presents — if your utility is a member of APPA’s DEED program, consider applying for project grants and scholarships to help you promote engineering as a career option to girls in your community. And if you’re not yet a member of DEED, join now.

There are plenty of other resources you can tap into. Check out this website, EngineerGirl, hosted by the National Academy of Engineering. It really makes the profession come alive, and could be an inspiration — and a resource — for your efforts.

Bring it out There’s also this infographic from DiscoverE (There’s a little bit of engineer in every girl #BringItOut) that urges us to remind girls that engineering is about curiosity, teamwork, helping others, creativity, and opportunities.

The bottom line is that engineers are problem solvers. We have lots of problems to solve, so we need all the brains we can get to work on them.

I’d like to hear from you. Comment on this blog to share what you’re doing to bring girls into engineering

Sue Kelly

Sue Kelly

President and CEO