GE additive blog

Women in Engineering:
A Father's Perspective

I wanted to take a moment to celebrate this day as the husband of a female engineer (EE) and the father of one daughter who is an engineer and two daughters who are currently studying to be engineers.

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chris schuppe
June 2022

Today (June 23, 2022) is a big day internationally. This is a day where we celebrate INWED or International Women in Engineering Day. 
I wanted to take a moment to celebrate this day as the husband of a female engineer (EE) and the father of one female engineer and two daughters who are currently studying to be engineers (Grace - Civil/Structural and Emma - Computer Science Engineering), and as someone who has worked for female engineers, with many amazing female engineers, and now humbly, as someone who leads many great female engineers.
To share a personal moment to really reflect how I feel about this day, I wanted to share this story.  Apologies if it’s a bit long.

When I left Toyota and moved to Cincinnati in 2000 to be a part of GE, we had two daughters under four years old. We were blessed on September 2, 2001, with my youngest, and third daughter, Emma.  As my girls grew, my wife and I always encouraged them to work hard, be studious and learn as much as they could.  We also asked them to compete in sports and be good teammates.  As they progressed through grade school, I felt like they were growing into strong, confident, independent young women.  When my oldest daughter, Cara, started looking at high schools (grades 9-12 in the US), she wanted to look at both co-ed (boys and girls) and girls-only schools.  To be honest, I was very skeptical of the girls schools because I felt it was good for my daughters to be in a gender-diverse environment. When I toured the local schools, I was impressed with all of them, but I noticed that the young women at the “girls” schools seemed more confident and more at ease than those at the co-ed schools. Long story, short, Cara decided to attend an all-girls school. I was honestly not super happy because I thought it was not the best choice, but I agreed.

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From left to right: Emma (20), Cara (25), me (old 😉), Grace (22)

When Cara came home after a few days of starting high school, I asked her how she liked it.  I was literally blown away and disappointed in how I raised her in one sentence when she answered.  Her exact comment when I asked how she liked it was, “It’s great. I don’t feel bad being the smartest person in the class.”

I asked her when she felt bad being the smartest in the class, and she said that, throughout grade school, she would not always answer questions or disagree with the boys because she didn’t want to be the smartest in the class.  I was mortified. I could not believe that our daughter was ashamed to be smart in front of boys. We felt like we taught her to be assertive, be confident, be her best and be who she is.  But, somewhere along the way, somehow, she had been taught that she should not be as smart as and defer to the boys. 
I’m very lucky and proud to report today that she is a successful professional in Chicago, Illinois, leading a sales enablement team for a Fortune 500 company, and she doesn’t lack confidence or fear “standing up to the boys.”
I share this personal story to highlight that my wife and I, who both tried to raise our daughters as confident, independent young women, realized part way through that there are major societal, workplace and personal situations that influence how people and our own children see the world. I don’t think this is unique to men vs. women or diverse vs. majority or any other situations that are in the world, but I share it as a personal reflection that I am still learning from.
To wrap this up, I would like to personally thank our female engineers for their ability to be their best confident selves, in a male-dominated field, despite societal norms and likely a lot of additional challenges beyond the “average guy” to become an engineer.  I tremendously value your commitment and your unique struggle that, as a male engineer, I don’t think I still fully appreciate. 

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Tomas Kellner
19 September 2019