Grainger Bob will soon have a female counterpart

Sakshi Srivastava sits next to Grainger Bob. She proposed adding a female counterpart on the Bardeen Quad.

“Grainger Bob” will soon have a female counterpart after Sakshi Srivastava, senior in Engineering, proposed adding a female engineering statue outside of Grainger Engineering Library in November 2013.

At a dedication on March 19, Texas Instruments announced it would fund Srivastava’s proposal to inspire women to pursue degrees in engineering as part of a $3.2 million gift pledge to the University.

The statue is estimated to be complete within the next academic year. 

Srivastava first noticed the gender discrepancy while writing a paper on the underrepresentation of women in math and science for a rhetoric class. Although Srivastava originally questioned why “Grainger Bob” did not have a female counterpart, she said the intention is not to be better than male engineering students and it’s not a competition. 

“We love Bob. Bob is the dude,” Srivastava said.

Rather, Srivastava’s hope is for the new statue to encourage more young women to pursue engineering degrees. Currently, only 19 percent of students enrolled in engineering at the University are females. 

“I’ve been here for four years, I’m a senior, and it’s not a hidden fact that there are less women in engineering, and you feel it the moment you come in,” Srivastava, who attended an all-girls high school, said. 

Srivastava said she hopes the new statue will help close this gap, but it has to be racially ambiguous. 

“If you’re putting in the effort of getting a statue and making this amazing project, then why not include all the diversity that you can?” Srivastava said.

According to the National Science Foundation — which classifies women as “low participation” in engineering — only about 18 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in the United States were awarded to women, and only 3 percent of those degrees were earned by minority women.

“The statue would show a message that this is something we’re supportive of and that we’re inclusive and diverse,” said Susan Larson, assistant dean of the College of Engineering and director of Women in Engineering, in a previous interview with The Daily Illini.

The Society of Women in Engineering is a University organization aimed at making women feel equal to men in the field. Srivastava said she believes the statue will exemplify the goal’s of groups like SWE. 

“SWE does support any kind of recognition to women’s accomplishments in the field of engineering, and we are always looking to inspire more women to become engineers and to become leaders,” said Rachel Beck, the group’s president, in a previous interview with the Daily Illini, “(The statue) will definitely encourage more women on our campus, along with potential students.” 

Beck said the statue will not only build on the current University programs for women, but will also hopefully encourage high school students who are unsure about choosing a career in engineering to pursue it, despite preconceived notions.

Srivastava said the new statue will remind enrolled students that their dreams are supported. 

She said she is also grateful to the University, the dean of engineering and the department head of the electrical and computer engineering for supporting her proposal and making it a reality.

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