Eye On Mining: Women in the STEM industry
The Iron Range is home to a wide variety of jobs in the mining and STEM industries, but there's a stereotype that's leaving a key demographic out.
The responses to the question, "what does an engineer look like" all had one thing in common: an engineer looks like a male.
There is some truth to that statement. Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 15 percent of the engineering workforce.
Christine Kennedy worked in the mines as an engineer for five years. She said she believes the lack of female participation is due to a misunderstanding of what engineers actually do.
"It's not just about doing the math. Eighty percent of what I did in the mining industry was not math. It was all about relating with people, project management, and understanding group dynamics."
In the US, female student achievements in mathematics and science are on par with their male peers, with the exception of computer science and engineering.
"We get this idea that we're not good at math, or we're not good at science, or I'm not a technical person," said Araina Boyd, a student at Iron Range Engineering (IRE). "I think the more we adopt a growth mindset, and the more we think outside of the box of what problem solving really encounters, I think those are really the tools that move us forward in engineering."
For Kortani Martin, a junior at IRE, it was the problem-solving aspect that drew her to engineering.
"I definitely enjoy working with people and I definitely enjoy solving problems so that's why I picked this field."
Kennedy said the Iron Range still has work to do when it comes to recruiting females into the STEM industries.
"I think that the traditional approach to recruiting is still tailored to men. Even if it's from an industry perspective, or from the perspective of a college that is recruiting. So because of that I think there is a barrier."
That barrier hasn't stopped Iron Range Engineering from educating high schools girls about the possibilities of a career as an engineer. The school held an event over the weekend called "Engineer Like A Girl" and saw a turnout of more than 40 high school girls.
"I think today's youth do care about today's problems," said Boyd. "They want to be a part of the solution and just showing them that is a possibility, I think that's huge."
This year's "Engineer Like a Girl" event was the second event the school has held to introduce high school girls to the STEM industries.