Dr. Whitney Blackburn-Lynch is an engineering professor at the University of Kentucky. After earning her undergraduate degree in mathematics, she earned a master’s in civil and environmental engineering. She spent twelve years working in industry and then pursued a PhD in biosystems and agricultural engineering. Dr. Blackburn-Lynch teaches and works on content development in the first-year engineering program. She strives to find out how to best serve freshmen engineering students and to help them transition from high school to college.
With her work in the first-year program, Dr. Blackburn-Lynch is able to think about what can be done to keep women in the STEM field. She explained that in high school, girls are usually fifty percent of the classroom, even in math and science classes. It is not an overwhelming difference. But then in first year engineering classes like math and physics, girls realize that they are a minority. A lot of females walk in unprepared to deal with attitudes directed towards them because they are different. Because of this, some females face imposter syndrome. To fix this, Dr. Blackburn-Lynch says we need to help women and other minorities recognize their power and to help them be confident. Ensuring women realize their full potential early is critical.
Dr. Blackburn-lynch shared her perspective on the importance of having females in STEM. She explained that females make up half of the population, so it is important that they are represented in the sciences equally. She recently taught a lecture in the first-year program on unconscious bias, including design bias. Engineers often design based on personal perspectives and experiences. For example, until 2011, there weren’t any crash dummies that were shaped like women. This resulted in a significant increase in the potential for serious injury to women in cars. Thus, it is important for women to be represented in STEM fields and in engineering because they are going to come at design from a different perspective. Females are going to have different ideas, which need to be heard so engineers can do better job of developing products for the entire population, not just the male half.