Breaking Barriers and Empowering Girls in Engineering

Heidi Balistrieri - Director of Engineering at Sentry Equipment

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Women have made tremendous strides in engineering over the last few decades. Rising both in numbers and in leadership roles, girls now have more women to look up to in STEM fields than ever before.

Representation is crucial. When young girls dream about their future, remember this phrase:

If they can see it, they can be it.

No one knows this better than Heidi Balestrieri. In college, she was the lone girl in a class of 50 mechanical engineering graduates. When she entered the workforce, the gender gap was even more apparent.

But Heidi pursued her passions and rose to become Director of Engineering at Sentry Equipment. For her work in manufacturing and STEM outreach, she was the recipient of a Manufacturing Institute Women MAKE award.

Heidi joins us for a discussion around women in engineering: how far we've come, how far we need to go, and what individuals, schools and businesses can do to create a world where every girl feels empowered to pursue a career in STEM.

3 Big Takeaways from this episode:

  1. Engineers are problem solvers: It's not just math and science. Engineering is all about solving problems, and that involves a much wider skillset. Schools can incorporate problem solving into STEM-related activities that teach even young kids how to think like an engineer. But remember, failure is part of the process. Heidi notes that many young girls seek perfection and are afraid to fail, so we must encourage trial and error as part of the problem-solving process.
  2. Give interns a real engineering project, and get a long-term employee: Often, engineering interns are assigned clerical work that doesn't challenge them or give them a sense for what a true engineering career can be like. Heidi and Sentry Equipment have given engineering students real engineering projects, real autonomy, and real responsibility, and in turn have seen those interns come back for full-time employment after graduation.
  3. Representation + community are needed for women in engineering: Representation starts young: engineering badge days in Girl Scouts and coaching First Lego League teams are two great examples Heidi shares. It continues into later school years, where companies need to have diverse representation at STEM outreach days and career fairs. Finally, women need community in STEM fields, whether at an inclusive company or through organizations like the Society of Women Engineers. Individuals also need their personal board of directors, that group of mentors that can pour into an emerging engineer and help her on her career path.


Learn more about organizations featured in this episode:

Connect with Heidi on LinkedIn.

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