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Wanted: Female brain cells

Woodbury High School hosted a panel of women engineers April 24 at the school.

Over the past five to 10 years, more and more women have turned to careers in science and engineering, but there's still more room to grow.

"We have a whole population of students that are under represented in our science classes," Woodbury High School assistant principal Rob Bach said. "We don't have the kind of gender balance, I think, that represents the interest the students have and I don't know quite why that is."

WHS shed some light on women in engineering April 24 when the school hosted a panel of women at different stages in their engineering careers.

"We're looking for ways to ensure that females in our science and technology sections are not under represented," Bach said.

The panelists included two WHS students currently enrolled in Project Lead the Way, the school's engineering course, three University of Minnesota students who are currently enrolled in an engineering program and who are members of the Society of Women Engineers, District 833's science specialist and three professional engineers who currently work at 3M.

"I think the idea of gathering people together to talk about this sends a message that this is okay, this is good," Bach said.

The panelists discussed how they found the path to engineering.

WHS junior Carolyn Domroese,who is currently taking Principals of Engineering, said she decided to be a panelist during last week's discussion because she has experienced first hand the lack of females in science.

"It is important to get women involved in engineering," she said. "I've noticed in my classes that there are not many girls and that's something that needs to change."

WHS freshman Hannah Jo Hamilton said she believes the reason why not more women take Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses is because the classes are so male-heavy.

"It's tough when you're the only girl in your class," she said. "That makes it intimidating.

"But, don't let that be a deal breaker."

University of Minnesota student Erin Lemke, who is studying mechanical engineering, said the intimidation factor doesn't necessarily go away at college either.

"A woman in an engineering class might have doubts that she doesn't belong there," she said. "But, if you do want to be there, act confident and act like you should be there."

University of Minnesota student Anna Deraney, who is studying biomedical engineering, said having a smaller number of women in her classes almost works in her favor because you become really close with your fellow female students.

"I might have switched majors if I wouldn't have had the support of girls going through the same things," she said.

Women in engineering takes on a little bit of a different look when it comes to a professional career.

Holly Maudsley, a manufacturing technical engineer for 3M, said she has seen that there are more women in entry-level engineering jobs, but there are hardly any in upper level positions.

Maudsley said she thinks that might have to do with children.

"I want women to be out there working," she said, "and if I want that I have to be out their working, even if I do have a 7-year-old at home.

"Having women coming up from the bottom is essential, so we are and will be in desperate need of all your brain cells."

WHS freshman Laura Parker, who attended the women in engineering panel, said she hopes more and more women continue to go into science.

"It's really a rising profession among women," she said. "It's more common place for women to be in the sciences and that is something that should be fostered and continued."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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