Have you ever heard of Yi Soyeon, the first space flight participant from Korea? She was also the first woman in space. She once said, "I’ve already lost if you think I'm discriminated against by people just because I'm a woman." She went on to say, "The secret of my success is to ignore the fact that I'm a woman." These days, like Yi Soyeon, we find many women achieving success as engineers. The field of engineering is now looking towards to women.
Further Steps Toward the Window
Engineering is now not just an area for men; there are many women engineers. The society Women in Science Engineering and Technology in Korea supports excellent women engineers for social development. Oh Myungsook who participated in a Women in Science Engineering Project and Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, said, "We must support women students who are studying natural sciences and engineering."1 Women are now throwing themselves into the field with enthusiasm, and there is now support for women engineers like societies offering institutional strategies training.
There is support in science and technology departments for female university students. There are also many programs for female university students who attend engineering colleges. Hongik University provides opportunities to share ideas about becoming a leader in engineering, organizations related to social life, advice for adapting to work as a female engineer. These workshops are provided to any female university student attending an engineering college in Seoul, so students have easier access to information on becoming a female engineer. Also, there are movements to establish an engineering college at a women's university. In fact, SMU is undergoing planning to open an engineering college on campus in 2015. Like SMU, there are many active movements to cultivate women engineers and universities are also striving to train talented women as engineers.
Reach Out Toward the Window
Although there are many active movements for women engineers socially and at school, there are still people who think women face difficulties in the engineering field. Recent news and magazine articles highlight successful women in engineering, suggesting women are adapting well to the field of engineering than in the past.
The concept of engineering that society needs is changing. In the past, engineering was merely associated with men such as operating and installing, but these days, ‘creation’ is more important than ‘imitation,’ women engineers are seizing the cracks of opportunities in the windows of engineering. Six of the world's most famous female engineers gathered at an international symposium hosted by Ewha Womans University. They said, "The future of engineering is sensible technology. Women's unique experiences and insights would enhance social contribution."2
It is essential to utilize talented females to take advantage of 'Soft Power.' Now, there is a shortage of competitive power due to the characteristic of men. Consider the structure of a company. Traditionally companies have been male-dominated. However, at the moment there are not many women in the field of engineering, so this absence of women could in fact, be advantageous for women. Comprising only a small proportion of the workforce, women depend on each other, which make it easy to form flexible colleague relations. Engineering requires cooperation among people. Lee Dongin, representative of Voice Eye said, "The combination of women's excellent communication skills, innovation, and flexibility will lead to succeed in the IT field."3 To develop such amicable relationships, it would be helpful for women to engage in engineering.
University support is also allowing these movements to become more active. The government is planning to increase female student employment to 60% by 2018, especially those in the natural science and engineering fields. Many universities are now creating programs for women students and engineers. Before choosing an engineer major, female high school students can now seek advice from mentor programs. For example, Girls Engineering Day was held at Kunsan University. Park Sungsin, a professor in the Department of Architecture Engineering at Kunsan University, said, "Girls Engineering Day was aimed at increasing local female high school student interest in engineering and increasing the entrance rate into engineering fields." Many universities support high school students who enter engineering fields, especially female students.
Look Around Through the Window of Engineering
There has been a rapidly increasing proportion of female students majoring in science and engineering in college and graduate school since 1980. In addition, it is a social trend to increase women working in engineering schools and institutes. However, women engineers still encounter problems. It is important to increase women in science and technology management, but it is also important to encourage them to continue with a career in engineering. Therefore, women in science and technology management need expanded childcare facilities. Also, current engineers must bring the dream of being a scientist to the next generation of female students and set an example for them. Then, someday in Korea, Korean society will have cultivated global women engineers. Lastly, if there are more concerns for science and women, then the moment will come sooner rather than later.
1 Jang Sunwha, "Career Discontinuity Could be Prevented by Supporting Women Engineers," Seoul Economy, August 25, 2014
2 Won Daeyeon, "International Symposium which was Hosted by Ehwa Womans University," Dong-A Daily News, November 08, 2009
3 Heo Jungyoon, "Let's Cultivate Natural Science and Engineer of Women Students," ETNews, November 21, 2013
4 Joe Gyungjang, "Girls Engineering Day was Convened at Kunsan University," Dominilbo of Jeonbuk, July 22, 2014