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A recent brief in the Wall Street Journal points to a troubling trend in engineering. Even as the computer science and engineering fields are growing, the article states, “men continue to flock to those lucrative positions in significantly larger numbers than women.”

The gap is especially evident in the field of materials engineering, but according to a presentation by a group of UAB graduates at a recent meeting of the Birmingham chapter of the American Foundry Society (AFS), there are good reasons why women engineers should take a second look at foundry work. A group of four women—three of them graduates of the UAB Materials Science and Engineering program—spoke to the group about their job satisfaction in a field dominated by men.

The group included recent UAB graduates Kelly McCool, Lindsay Hamner, and Emily Shedlarski, as well as Patti Buksa. “The purpose of our group speaking at the meeting was to introduce the Birmingham Chapter to the relatively new Women in Metalcasting Group,” said Hamner. “We thought it would be informative to show four women in different stages of life and their careers to come speak about what it is to be a woman in this male-dominated industry.”

The presentation, which was first presented at the AFS regional meeting in Tennessee, explains that, women make up roughly 27% of the manufacturing workforce, and according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, they make up only 7.5% of foundry workers in 2016.

“According to a study by Women in Manufacturing, the perception of the industry isn’t wonderful,” Hamner explained. “People think of dirty old factories, and they don’t think it’s interesting or challenging work.”

These women, however, are spreading a different message. “It was great to hear young women, especially our former students, share this message,” said Amber Genau, Ph.D., associate professor in the MSE Department. “The talked about the challenges and the hard work, but they also talked about their job satisfaction and optimism.”

Other key talking points, Shedlarski said, included transitioning from college life to career and adulthood, tools for success, and setting goals.

“Women in Metalcasting is a group open to everyone, men and women,” Shedlarski said. “We hope more people will check it out and see what this career field has to offer.”

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