Discussion Thread

Debunking (and discussing) Engineering Stereotypes

  • 1.  Debunking (and discussing) Engineering Stereotypes

    Posted 3 days ago

    For fun, I recently googled “engineer stereotypes” to see what came up. This was the first article I found.


    Engineers are often stereotyped in media as unathletic geeks who enjoy few sports or hobbies, none too far removed from their jobs. The article above even mentions that TV shows like The Big Bang Theory have reinforced some of these perceptions. I think most of us realized pretty early in school or in our careers that this isn’t always (or even usually) true.

     I wanted to start a thread to learn about observations from others on this subject. Here are some questions I had:

    1. Is there anything about you that defies the perception of a stereotypical engineer?
    2. And upon closer inspection, is there anything you like about those hobbies that ties back to something in engineering as well?
    3. Why do you think these stereotypes exist, and do you think that the perspective of the public is changing?

     I’ll go first.

    For starters, math was my least favorite class in school, and probably also the one I struggled with the most. I much preferred English and history, and spent a lot of my free time undertaking various creative writing pursuits. Nowadays during the pandemic, I have been spending a fair bit of time learning to draw.

    In terms of my life intersecting with engineering, I like to hike simply for the sake of getting outside and seeing cool places. But I also enjoy getting to see all of the hydrologic occurrences in rivers and streams that were discussed and presented in textbooks. I also enjoy surfing for its own sake, but have also found that it has taught me about the basics of wave mechanics as well.

    I can think of a number of other friends who studied engineering with me who were responsible for showing me that “engineers were just people like everyone else”. It helped to ease my own imposter syndrome, coming from a background of someone who didn’t love math. Its my belief that as with a lot of stereotypes, occasional quirky or eccentric behaviors tend to be expanded on by the media and presented as the baseline of what engineers (and people in general) are. But taking a closer look at those around you can usually highlight a number of flawed assumptions offered by most stereotypes. In the end, there are all types of people who get involved in engineering. This is probably a conclusion that seems obvious, but sometimes I like to consciously try to work my way through it.

     What do you think?

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer