Carrie Etherington and David Morgan, Industrial Design
With women making up less than 18% of positions in engineering and technology fields, I feel there are many doors that still can be opened. My intention with this project was to identify what was acting as a barrier keeping women from these fields and to use euthenics (a science concerned with improving the human experience through the improvement of its environment) to make project development spaces often used by individuals in these fields places where more people are welcomed and comfortable. I specifically wanted to see if there were any physical factors that were keeping women from these fields.
Throughout the course of this project I approached researching this subject in three ways. I started by reviewing over ten peer-reviewed articles found in scientific journals that addressed how the different genders approached physical products, as well as articles addressing what difficulties were faced by women entering technical fields. Using the insights gained from this research I then created a survey that I sent out to the female students on campus who were a part of WE@BYU (the BYU club for women in engineering and technology majors). Within a 24hr period I received over 80 detailed responses to my survey. There was quite a bit of enthusiasm towards the subject matter. I next proceeded to analyze and categorize the information given to me in the survey responses in order to recognize trends and identify the underlying barriers of the issues described. Using this analysis, I then spent large amounts of time in lab settings ideating on how the issues brought to light in my research could be addressed.
Again and again my research pointed to the same problem: that of women feeling like outsiders in many of these environments. When someone views themselves as an outsider they are less likely to stay, let alone to succeed. I developed a system that if implemented in technical settings will promote inclusion, embrace the outsider, and improve the experiences of women in STEM fields. This diagram (Figure 1) shows this system: It includes an environment that is inviting (by addressing factors like lighting and sound); shared equipment that is secure feeling (by using signs and storage to minimize chaos); and a work station that is completely personal and creates a feeling ownership for the individual. If implemented, this system would help someone coming into an environment to feel welcome from the beginning as well as comfortable while working and approaching new tasks. It also promotes a feeling of belonging, ultimately embracing someone who other wise would view themselves as an outsider.
In order to represent how my system could be implemented in a project development space, I developed example products like sound absorbent lighting and personal work cart that embraced the characteristics of my system and could be placed in an existing work space. I built life-size prototypes of these products and presented them side by side with the visual representations of my proposed system in two different shows open to the public. One of these was on display at BYU campus, the other in a public space in Salt Lake City (Figure 2).
Ultimately, my hope with this project is to open doors. An individual’s influence will suffer if she views herself as an outsider, but I feel that the system I developed, if implemented, would effectively embrace an individual, allowing her to feel like she belongs in a STEM environment.
Figure 1 – This figure is a representation of my proposed system. This system serves to make an individual entering a space to feel welcomed, then to feel safe, and then to take ownership of that space. It ultimately embraces someone who might otherwise feel uncomfortable.