women in engineering

Do Female Engineers Intimidate Men?

In response to a comment from a reader, I am inspired to write this post.  My anonymous reader says that although she is fiercely passionate about mechanical engineering and metallurgy, guys seem to prefer social girls over technical ones. Her last boyfriend even left her for someone who worked in the fashion industry!

At the risk of sounding like a magazine agony-aunt, let me have my two-cent’s worth on this topic.

pretty-nerdIn my personal experience and from what others have told me, guys generally tend to be very intimidated by a woman who is in a highly technical field.  Now here I am talking about guys who you’d meet at the gym or at a party, not guys at work (they are intimidated for other reasons but we’re not going to go there in this post).  I have had a guy at a part flat-out admit that I being an engineer was “actually quite intimidating”. Soon after that, he made some excuse and left to talk to a far more fun-looking girl.  I, for one am convinced that guys are intimidated by smart or technically-focused women.

So, what to do about it?

#1           Be more fun and sociable.

This is what most young, female engineers feel they need to do to attract men. Please girls, don’t think this way.  For one, we are not naturally the life of the party. Not only are we – for the most part – more inclined to being introverted or socially awkward, but we also have serious studies and careers to think about. We just can’t afford to spend three nights a week entertaining ourselves and others. But we also know its going to pay off…and soon!  If a guy can’t handle you the way you are – then its just not meant to be. Sorry.

 #2           Understand the man

Let’s take a minute to think about why a man might be intimidated by an engineer woman.  Our Society is a funny thing that tends to put us all into neat little boxes. That’s how it operates most efficiently. From the time we’re small children, little boys are given plastic screwdrivers and buckets, and little girls are presented with curly-haired dolls. This follows us our whole lives through as everyone and everything around us reinforces these ideals placing us under massive pressure to succumb to these norms as child-bearers and care-givers. Engineering women however – necessarily strong willed, independent, high-earning and technical – go against the grain of some really deep-seated beliefs.  Can we really blame these poor guys for fearing us?

  (My folks gave my sisters and I Lego and puzzles instead of dolls resulting in two engineers and one graphic designer. Thank you mum and dad!)

 #3           Move in the right circles               

As much as you don’t want to hear this, perhaps you would find more relationship success with others of your own species?  I don’t just mean technical men and engineers, but anyone who has a similar status in Society and earning-potential.  As most engineers are destined to become managers, a man may feel uncomfortable knowing that you are more likely to take care of him than him taking care of you.  The male ego should never be ignored (refer to the paragraph above) and as a professional, it’s only natural to want to nest up with someone you can relate to.  Although incredibly difficult to give up an existing relationship, if you are looking for a new one perhaps consider hanging about the chemical engineering building at lunch or getting your friends to introduce you to an up-and-coming businessman.  Word of advice: as tempted as you may be, stay away from the management consultants! Trust me; it’s just not worth it.

 #4           Timing, timing, timing

These days, as the world moves away from traditional notions which made early-marriage a necessity, professionals –men and women – are choosing to get married later on in life.  Young, successful professionals realize that the world is theirs for the taking and no parent or pastor has the sway to force you to settle down early anymore.  This means that us young, career-focused ladies may have to change our ideas of being single or dating (instilled by our conservative mothers) and embrace our extended freedom and youth!

 This is a double-win for us. Not only will we have complete freedom to chase our careers and dreams without the burden of kids and a husband, achieving more success in life as a result, but when we do decide to seriously look for a mate, we will be more mature, sure of who we are and what we want, and will – if we’re smart – have created a large network of industry professionals to launch our search! (Who said LinkedIn was just for job-hunting?)

So I hope to have hit home on some points which other young, professional women – especially engineers – have to deal with.  What’s interesting is that in many places in the world, women right now are at a turning point full of excitement and uncertainty. We are the generation to write the rules for women in this field so it’s bound to be a little rough as Society settles into having this new species of females around.

4 thoughts on “Do Female Engineers Intimidate Men?”

  1. I really have no idea why these men could be intimidated by these women. I mean, they are not lawyer types, who could screw your ass by whipping out false allegations! This is only dating dudes, no one is dragging your your ass down the aisle. Why don’t they just enjoy the company? I mean, how many people can understand and appreciate and contribute to conversions related to the difference between quantization in electronics and sampling theorem , and quantum mechanics? One of the happiest times in my college was one female professor who explained us the basing of vector calculus, especially the correspondence between the various co-ordinate systems (Cartesian , cylindrical ), and their expressions in vector calculus. I understood and could progress my studies in transmission lines , and antenna theory, which is possibly the most very math heavy part of electronics engineering, other than information theory and control systems!She is possibly one of the teacher I admire most in my life. Happy times.

    I could carry out great chat with my female classmates about semiconductor physics, and its relation to condensed matter physics, and its broad application to electronics . How about organic electronics, or spintronics, How many non-engineers can you talk about these to? These guys should feel lucky that they have some girls actually enthusiastically talk to them about these exotic and yawning inducing subjects, which ordinary people would simply draw a blank expression along with yawning? Along with these, they can also get to sleep with them, if they get along! How cool is that? I , in fact envy them. Indian engineers cannot sleep with female classmates, without getting married. Hookup is a social taboo, almost detested to the point of lynching the male student. You can court them along occasional kissing, but that is about it. Boy I am so jealous!!

  2. Any person, male or female, who is an engineer can be a serious threat to men without engineering degrees in any organization. I have observed this for over the last 40 years working as a mechanical engineer in the US.

    This has always been a problem for engineers who attempt to work in any industry staffed by non-engineers. For men, it is all about penis envy and fear of the unknown. The more backward the industry, the worse the problem.

    Probably the worse industry in the US is the forest products industry. This is the reason this industry is considered the worst managed business in the US.

  3. Ugh. I am so thankful that my husband finds my intelligence attractive, not a threat. He is proud of me, what I can accomplish, and what I can contribute to our life together.

    I would never advise women to make themselves smaller in order to accommodate men’s insecurities (whether it’s a potential life partner, a friend or a co-worker). I feel so much empathy for those smart successful women who are afraid they will never find a match. To them I say, chin up and don’t lose hope. Don’t be less than yourself – ever!

    That said I like your point about being social; to me that’s synonymous with being open to all sorts of people and abilities. Multiple intelligence theory says there is more than one way to be smart/accomplished, and in good relationships, friendships and work teams it pays to have a diversity of skills in the mix. For example my husband is a mechanic. His hands-on skill set is a great compliment to my more theoretical process-based (engineering) training.

    So when it comes to intimidating others, keep your mind open, give props to others, and don’t shrink yourself. It’s worth it as the positive energy and respect will almost always come back to you… but don’t take it personally if it doesn’t.

  4. The author is spot on. I’ve been in engineering for 25 years now and I can tell you that guys are definitely intimidated. Either marry another engineer or a doctor. They actually admire technically gifted women. I dated an electrician (not an engineer) for 10 months, and he was soooo intimidated that he kept saying that ‘my processor was much faster than his’. Seriously. He told me things like how he liked smarter women but them said that he wasn’t bright enough to keep up with me. Whatever.

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