Woman encouraging other women to pursue careers in engineering

Posted at 10:29 AM, May 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-24 17:56:32-04

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Are we finally closing the gender gap when it comes to women in stem, science, technology, engineering and math?

In 2016, only seven percent of female graduates earned a degree in stem as opposed to 15 percent of males. Meet one woman working hard to change that.

For Olga Pierrakos, Founding Chair & Professor of the Department of Engineering at Wake Forest University, there are no boundaries when it comes to women in engineering.

“My mom jokes that as a toddler I used to take apart little trains," Pierrakos said.

But in college, Pierrakos noticed the lack of women in her field. “I went through 11 years at Virginia Tech without having a female professor,” she said.

Now as the founding chair of the Department of Engineering at Wake Forest University, she’s determined to change that.

“Right now we can say we have 42% women,” Pierrakos explained.

That’s compared to only 15 percent female college stem students nationwide. Pierrakos is aimed at changing the culture.

“To raise their hand, do not be afraid to ask those questions,”

Hannah Grimm, Wake Forest Engineering Major, says she doesn’t feel intimidated pursuing a male-dominated degree. “I actually like when I’m being overlooked because then it gives me a chance to prove that I shouldn’t be.”

Regan O’Donnell, Wake Forest Engineering Major, says most people are a little shocked she chose to be an engineering major.

“Their first reaction is oh my god it’s so hard how can you be doing that?” O’Donnell said. Both enjoy the challenge and say Pierrakos is a mentor and role model.

She advises, “Find the right peers, the right teachers that give you that positive energy.”

It’s not family or career. It’s family and career! “I have 4 kids so family is something that is very, very important to me,” Pierrakos said.

Pierrakos is creating a partnership with the medical school to foster an interest in biomedical engineering. To learn more about the engineering program at Wake Forest University please visit this website. Perrakos’s focus is improving medical devices, specifically prosthetic heart valves and stents.