Wanted: Female engineers for the future

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Elizabeth Rolinski, VP Manufacturing Engineering, Johnson Controls Power Solutions  

  By Elizabeth Rolinski
  VP Manufacturing Engineering, Johnson Controls Power Solutions

The student was almost out of the room when I caught up with her. She’d asked good questions during our Society of Women Engineers presentation. Now I asked her if she’d ever thought about going into manufacturing engineering.

“I had an internship and spent the whole summer auditing tape measures,” she said. “Not very exciting.”

“We have to talk,” I told her, and made an appointment with this young woman to promote my field.

Today, Caroline Villa is an engineer in the Johnson Controls battery manufacturing formation area. She loves her work, and she loves recruiting other female engineers.

Because let’s face it: We need to fill the pipeline with all the Carolines we can find.

Start early
Developing the next generation of female engineers is essential to competitiveness:

  • Innovation requires people with diverse perspectives and insights
  • Employee engagement increases as inclusion does
  • The growing skills gap in mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering can be closed as we close the gender gap

Yet the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says in 2016, women made up only 6 percent of U.S. mechanical engineers, 11 percent of electrical engineers, and 20 percent of chemical engineers. Early on, young women need a clearer view of these disciplines, the chance to participate in “mechanical” projects, and engineering role models.

It’s equally exciting to see NEXT networking events grow beyond our expectations. At this year’s school year kickoff event, students wanted to keep on talking and networking. We almost couldn’t get them to leave the room.

NEXT steps
Our Network Educate eXpand Transform (NEXT) program gets to the heart of this issue and seeks to make a difference for years to come. Johnson Controls partners with SWE chapters from Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on initiatives for various ages, including:

  • Outreach and networking events to show college students the real opportunities of engineering
  • Internships and graduate experiences to attract diverse talent to Johnson Controls
  • NEXT leadership opportunities (in addition to their day job) for our company’s young female engineers

And NEXT connects with girls even earlier in their educational career. Our employees and partners collaborate to:

  • Hold “Engineering Challenge Day” and other events that introduce girls in middle and high school to engineering disciplines
  • Demonstrate this path is open before students lock in their high school courses
  • Offer engineering role models for high school students

It’s been a pleasure to see Caroline grow in her career, including leading NEXT. Today she’s passed the baton to a new group of young female engineers and become their mentor.

It’s equally exciting to see NEXT networking events grow beyond our expectations. At this year’s school year kickoff event, students wanted to keep on talking and networking. We almost couldn’t get them to leave the room.

And we’ll certainly work to keep them in the pipeline.

Learn more about the Johnson Controls commitment to women in STEM

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