On a global scale, the gender gap in STEM professions is still a serious problem, with women disproportionately underrepresented in numerous fields. The gap is even more pronounced in the fields of civil engineering and construction than in other STEM fields. Surprisingly, only 25.5% of women work in manufacturing, construction, and engineering in the EU. With only 33.3% of researchers in STEM worldwide being female on average, this tendency is present in more than just Europe.
On International Women’s day, ASDEA Engineering would like to thank our female colleagues and collaborators for their contributions. In honor of this and this year’s theme of embracing equity, we sat down and talked to several women who collaborate with the companies that form the ASDEA group about their experiences. Dr. Alessia Amelio continues to shatter the glass ceiling with her research over the last 10 years. She has a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering and continues to excel in her field. Not only has she been invaluable to our collaborative projects, and a continuous source of inspiration. In fact, going into university, she started at a disadvantage,
“I started with a classical high school diploma*, and at the beginning, I did not have all the knowledge [for engineering], but I had a very good foundation, which, combined with determination and rigorous studying, helped me to thrive.”
Her determination and commitment to her goals are what enabled her success. When asked about advice she has for young girls interested in pursuing a STEM career, she gave them advice along those lines, “…be determined and don’t settle. A STEM subject requires a lot of determination, and there are always ups and downs. The important thing is to persevere and try to squeeze the best out of every situation. Always think in 360 degrees, as there are no absolute truths or single realities. That is why it is important to be open to new cultures, including working with colleagues from other countries.”
We asked our colleagues to give their advice for young girls as studies have revealed that around two-thirds of primary school children express interest in STEM education. However, as they progress to secondary school, many girls tend to discontinue their science classes. One possible explanation for this trend is that girls receive less attention and encouragement compared to their male counterparts, and this pattern persists through higher education. Additionally, the scarcity of female mentors or tutors and the industry’s greater emphasis on male students often lead to female students falling behind, thereby exacerbating the gender gap in STEM fields.
At ASDEA, we like to encourage and sponsor promising engineers, and we take great pride in being able to support bright female professionals. We were thrilled to meet Marilisa Di Benedetto, whom we connected with during her master’s thesis, “I learned about Asdea during my thesis period as I needed to use STKO for modeling and numerical simulation of the corrosive effects on Gerber girders.” We are very excited to be sponsoring her Ph.D. in civil engineering, where she is specifically researching the optimal design of civil structures, “Our collaboration continues today in my Ph.D. program at the Polytechnic University of Turin, where STKO is a fundamental tool for my research.” She is currently working on developing numerical simulations on infilled reinforced frames in order to evaluate their behavior and provide a high-fidelity model. When asked about her future goals, she responded,
“My goals are constantly changing and evolving; I am always eager to experiment with new methods and take on new challenges. I had the pleasure of pursuing a brief stint in infrastructure design prior to my research at the Polytechnic University, and this served to broaden my horizons. My ultimate dream was, and is, to research and teach; however, in the future, I do not preclude the possibility of collaborating in the engineering sector to apply what I will learn in my research activities.”
With such poise, Marilisa will unquestionably be a leader and force in the industry.
Another important reflection for today should be that the small percentage of those women who complete their degrees will face a difficult road. In fact, a lot of women must deal with the harsh reality of having to fight for acceptance in a field that is predominately male. Women may find this to be a particularly challenging problem because they may experience bias and discrimination in their profession. On this topic, Marilisa expressed, “It should be emphasized that the gender gap exists and is not a mystery. When you are offered underpaid jobs or labeled with titles other than what you are, an Engineer, be brave enough to realize that this is not normal.”
Another student we met during her Master’s thesis is Valentina Bogatkina, and she completed her Master of Science in Civil Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Turin. She developed her thesis in conjunction with ASDEA Software, entitled “Assessment of the Additional Shear Demand induced by Masonry Infills on Reinforced Concrete Elements in presence of Seismic Action.” We are pleased that post-graduation, she has continued to work with us and collaborate on non-linear analysis topics. “Working on certain issues is extremely intriguing and never boring. Despite the difficulties it provides, the whole experience is still engaging,” she explained when talking about her work. Continuing our conversation, in answer to the question of what it takes to be successful in her field, she responded,
“It is crucial to truly love what you do if you want to succeed. Being proactive and persistent in the face of difficulties is also essential. Never allow yourself to give up.”
*In Italy, students are divided into different high schools that specialize in the fields they hope to study at University.
Ireland, Danyelle Tauryce.Only about 1 in 5 engineering degrees go to women. The conversation Academic rigour, journalistic flair. June 23, 2022, https://theconversation.com/only-about-1-in-5-engineering-degrees-go-to-women-185256
Mamta (2021), Role of Women in STEM, Insights2Techinfo, pp.1.
UNESCO International Days. International day of Women and Girls in science. UNESCO. 11 February 2023.
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