Praising a beacon for women engineers

The iconic Grainger Bob statue will soon have a friend. Texas Instruments announced March 19 that it is funding the addition of a female counterpart to the statue seated outside Grainger Engineering Library as part of a $3.2 million gift to the University.

The statue, which is expected to be completed within the next academic year, is a small gesture with big implications.

Only 19 percent of engineering undergraduates are female, reflecting a larger national trend of low female participation in science, technology, engineering and math.

Adding a female statue to the engineering campus is the first of many steps to encourage women to enter STEM fields. Representing both genders outside of Grainger will instill confidence in prospective engineering students as well as those already enrolled.

Despite a storied stereotype that boys are good at math and science while girls excel in writing and liberal arts, there is no biological relationship between sex and academic studies. In a world where women are discouraged from entering STEM fields as early as elementary school, they may be less likely to pursue a career in the sciences.

As less than a quarter of the College of Engineering’s current undergraduate population is female, this does not seem to be far from the truth.

By representing this historically underrepresented group, Grainger Bob’s counterpart will show women that they are not only welcome in STEM fields, but that they have an equal chance for success after graduation.

At Engineering Open House, if a young girl sees the statue, she will know that there is nothing stopping her from following a career in science. The new statue will hopefully take the first steps in breaking a stereotype, encouraging future female students to seek a STEM degree despite historically low numbers.

For women on campus now, the statue’s existence will not only signify their presence, but indicate that while their numbers are small, they are a strong minority group within the field that will be immortalized alongside Grainger Bob.

On a campus that encourages diversity and inclusivity, the statue’s addition will send the message that women are a welcome and capable group within the College of Engineering and their presence is appreciated and celebrated.

While this new female statue may not work any enrollment miracles, her induction will speak volumes to the modern expectations of possibilities for women in engineering.

Plus, Bob could use a friend.