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Panel: “Role & Place of Women in Engineering: Opportunities and challenges”

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The organizer of the panel was Prof. Nasiri Kenari, the current chair of WIE in Iran and Prof. of Sharif University of Technology, and the panelists were:

Prof. Kasaei (Prof. of Sharif University of Technology),
Prof. Mohajerani (Dean of Dr. Shariaty Faculty),
Ms. Eng. Haerizadeh (Principle of Manzoumeh Kherad Institute),
Prof. Tebyani (Pioneer in Iran ICT industry and Prof. of Sharif University of Technology),
Prof. Faraji Dana (Member of Iran Academy of Science and Prof. of University of Tehran)
Prof. Salehi (Member of Iran Academy of Science and Prof. of Sharif University of Technology)

Prof. Nasiri Kenari started the panel by a brief review of a worldwide history of women in engineering. She mentioned that the first breakthrough in entry of women in engineering program in western countries was during and after word War II due to a serious shortage of engineering professionals. The first step was taken by industries through introducing some private programs, such as on-the job engineering training for women with degrees in mathematics and physics offered by General Electric and other companies. The additional demands for trained engineering experts due to the cold war and the space race between the western and eastern countries made many engineering schools in U.S and Europe that had previously admitted only male students began to tentatively admit female students. As an example, after 116 years, Renseller Polytechnique Institute (RPI) began to admit small numbers of female students in the 1940s. Dr. Nasiri continued her talk by stating that the second breakthrough happened two decodes ago, this time being initiated by universities, research institutes, and scientific organizations, not just because of the industry demands, but mostly for the sake of having enough diversity in the Engineering fields. Since that time, many and various awards and scholarships have been offered to promote the rule and place of women in engineering. Half of the innovative and creative population in any society belongs to females. The complementary and diverse talents in men and women can provide an appropriate landmark for science, technology and development sustainability. She concluded her talk by this remark that science and technology are for the benefit of humanity and both insights of men and women are essential for this purpose. Then Panelists expressed their opinions on the subject.

Prof. Salehi emphasized that the main problem we encounter in our society is the lack of unique definition and expectation of women. Different groups in our society have different viewpoints on this matter, and the homogenization and integration of these viewpoints are essential.
Prof. Faraji Dana had a quantitative analysis on the presence of female engineering students in undergraduate and graduate levels in Iran, Europe and United States. From the data that he presented, he concluded that the percentage of female engineering students in Iran is more than many developed countries.
Prof. Mohajerani raised the roles of self-satisfaction and self-confidence in the success of female engineering students. From her points of view, the most important obstacle in female engineers’ advancement and promotion is the lack of confidence; respecting their intentions and boosting their confidence can have an influential role in their progresses.
Prof. Tebyani raised serious concerns on why in general our talented students prefer engineering field to the areas like statistics and management while the society suffers of not having enough highly qualified experts in these areas. He also mentioned that some of our graduated female students prefer to stay at home instead of being in work place and this is also respectful.
Mrs. Haerizadeh believed that internship especially for female students has a major influence on their self confidence and their skill improvement. From her point of view, sociological analysis on this issue is essential.
Prof. Kasai mentioned that the holistic view of female and the pointed and straight view of male are complementary and jointly have a major role in fulfilling engineering projects. She emphasized that females should believe in their potentials.
At the end of the panel, some audiences presented their viewpoints about this issue, such as Prof. Morravej who said that education is a value and should not be influenced by the taboo of the society, while, Prof. Badie, believed that the success in any job is affected by the innovation Prof. Bastian also emphasized on the complementary role of male and female based upon their different viewpoints. Prof. Irajizad talked about her experiences in managing research teams and reaction of the society to her activities. She concluded her talk by expressing that we are optimistic and the movement, which is started, is reaching to its goal.
At the end, Prof. Nasiri appreciated the presence of panelists and audiences and promised to organize some other panels in future.

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