Campus and Community

“The idea of women in engineering needs to be normalised”

These are the words of professor Marta Fajardo, during her speech in the workshop “Girls in Engineering and Technologies”, which inspired young female secondary school students.

Inspiring girls to study engineering, highlighting success stories and demystifying preconceived ideas are some goals of the project “Engenheiras por um dia”. A set of online workshops entitled “Girls in Engineering and Technologies” took place last Thursday and Friday, 25th and 26th June. Several Técnico professors participated in the sessions: Beatriz Silva, professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering (DEM) and coordinator of Gender Balance @ Técnico, Marta Fajardo, professor at the Department of Physics (DF), and Teresa Duarte, professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering (DEQ).

The Técnico professors shared their experiences, highlighted their professional fulfilment and clarified the students’ doubts about the professional opportunities.

“It was really interesting seeing young people’s perspectives, boys and girls, on engineering”, says professor Marta Fajardo. “It was also very enlightening to see other female engineers explaining their paths and careers, and how they became scientists”, she adds. Professor Marta Fajardo talked about her vast international experience, namely about lasers and relativity, which “fascinates young people”, as she pointed out. “Young people ask the most amazing questions – and the most difficult to answer”, says the professor.

“I really enjoyed participating, it was interesting to understand the students’ doubts about Engineering”, shares professor Beatriz Silva, who participated in the session entitled “Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics”. “I believe this session was very fruitful because it allowed to exchange a lot of different views”, she adds.

According to professor Teresa Duarte “it was very positive and interesting to participate in this event. “Nowadays there are more and more young women who freely choose what they want to do in the future”, but some ideas still need to be clarified. “We must fight against the idea that engineers don’t interact directly with people and the surrounding environment. There are many young women who choose Medicine or Nursing courses, or even Social Sciences courses, because they want to interact directly with people”, says professor Teresa Duarte. “Engineering has great social importance. I hope this message reaches everyone”, stresses the professor.

“The Chemical Engineering course at Técnico has always had the right percentage of male and female students: 50% of each genre”, says professor Teresa Duarte. There are also other courses in the field of Engineering that have been captivating female young people, namely Biological Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. This tendency for young girls to enter “courses that were thought to be less suited to women’ has been increasing.

Professor Beatriz Silva highlights “society continues to categorise and label certain areas as masculine and others as feminine” which, in her opinion, keeps many young women away from engineering. “This prejudice does not make sense, because diversity in the area of engineering and technology is huge. Thinking, for example, that Mechanical Engineering is just cars is a narrow view and does not allow to have a global view of Mechanical Engineering and its impact on society”, highlights professor Beatriz Silva.

“The idea of women in engineering needs to be normalised”, says professor Marta Fajardo. “The first person I talked to about Physics was a professor at the Faculty of Sciences; my first scientific work advisor was a French lady, worked in a laboratory with many female scientists. I had excellent female professors. So, although there were not many girls studying Physics, I thought that my journey was perfectly banal”, recalls the professor.

The students Inês Mendes, Sofia Vaz (NAPE-IST) and the ambassadors Catarina Gomez, Carolina Santos and Maria Amorim (Técnico Ambassadors Programme) attended the sessions and helped to clarify the doubts about the courses and professional opportunities.