This year marks the 10th anniversary of an initiative Siemens started to encourage young women to consider engineering as a viable career path.
On Friday, March 7, 2014, Siemens hosted 150 girls-grades five through 12-and their parents at its West Chicago plant for an event called "Introduce a Girl to Engineering."
The girls not only were able to take a factory tour while there, but they completed several fun experiements associated with different engineering disciplines.
Jayne Beck and five other engineers at the plant hosted this year's event, though Beck is the veteran of the group. Beck, manager of motor control center and switchboard order engineering at Siemens Industry, has more than 35 years of engineering experience and originally introduced the program at the Siemens West Chicago plant in 2005.
Beck said that having women in the engineering field brings a diversity of experience and thinking to the plant.
"Diversity means that people have different ways of approaching things, and this brings a lot of value to the company," Beck said.
Over the course of the ten years since the event started, it has grown in attendance from 15 to more than 100 girls the past three conosecutive years. Beck says the plant has advertised the event mostly through word-of-mouth, social media and outreach to local schools and Girl Scout groups.
This year's celebration included a surprise visit from one of the plant's 2006 participants, Elizabeth Drennan. Drennan is now a senior at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where she is finishing her degree in computer engineering. She participated in a summer internship with Siemens in 2012.
Drennan said that despite the fact that both of her parents are engineers, "a hands-on approach is what captured her attention about pursuing engineering as a career."
Siemens continues to have great plans for the future of female engineers. As a global organization, they are focued on increasing the number of female engineers worldwide, and have already doubled the number of women in management roles to almost 8,000 over the past 10 years.
Approximately a quarter of the Siemens global workforce is female. That percentage is growing, and about a third of Siemens' 34,000 new hires from 2013 were women.
Siemens also works hard to remain a state-of-the-art facility sporting the latest technology. In 2011, the company invested approximately $10 million in the plant to modernize operation, manufacturing motor control centers, switchboards, enclosed controls and definite purpose contactors.
Siemens uses its own high-tech PLM design software to configure motor control centers virtually and collaborate with team members and customers globally through 3D product simulation and drawings before each product is manufactured. These updates keep the company in line with the specifications of an advanced manufacturing initiative President Obama recently announced, including Chicago’s new Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute.
On March 21, Siemens will host another "Introduce a Girl to Engineering" event at its Buffalo Grove, IL location. Other programs similar to "Introduce a Girl to Engineering" are taking place at several major Siemens locations around the United States. On Saturday, March 29, 2014, Siemens partners with the Society of Women Engineers at Georgia Tech in Atlanta for "Science Day."
And Siemens doesn't plan on stopping any time soon. The hope is to continue upping the number of attendees each year and to invite the girls back to share their stories with the next group.
Drennan said that while things in the engineering field seemed so intimidating years ago, such as writing code, the event helped open her mind so that she can now look at these tasks with "excitement and clarity."
"And this is something I hope to pass along to the next generation of female engineers," Drennan said.