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NDT Women: Industry Veterans Discuss the Opportunities, Challenges, and Triumphs of the NDT Community

For every 96 men working in nondestructive testing (NDT), it is estimated that there are four women (ASNT, 2016, p. 289). No one knows the actual numbers. They’re higher in the certain sectors and in certain functions within NDT, such as aerospace and academia, but the disparity is undeniable. On average, women earn approximately 21% of all engineering bachelor’s degrees and 25% of master’s degrees. Numbers in fields related to NDT are even higher—metallurgical/materials at 28%, civil at 24%, and chemical at 33% (Yoder, 2016). So why are NDT’s numbers so low? It is 2018, and women’s issues have certainly been in the forefront of our national consciousness recently. This only makes these numbers even more worrisome. So, here, we’ve set out to begin to understand some of the reasons that may contribute to the lack of women in NDT. That ASNT existed for over 50 years without a woman serving as president reflects that fact that women have long been underrepresented in NDT (ASNT, 2016, p. 222). However, we’ve had some exemplary women pave the way. In 1955, Harriet Carleson became the chair of the Cleveland Section, the first woman to lead a section of the Society. In 1974, Carleson became one of ASNT’s first two female Fellows, alongside Ellen Placas, who was also the first female to serve on ASNT’s Board of Directors. In 1987, Maryellen Robards became the first woman elected as ASNT’s treasurer, putting her in line for the presidency. However, poor health forced her to resign. The installation of Vickie Panhuise as president in 1993 marked the first time in the Society’s history that a woman was elected to office. She was followed by Sharon Vukelich (2005–2006) and Jocelyn Langlois (2008–2009). Three years ago, the Recognition for the Advancement of Women in NDT was created to recognize individuals or organizations that encourage women to enter and thrive in the field of NDT, either through creation and/or implementation of programs that provide educational and/or career advancement opportunities to women, or through leading by example. Additionally, ASNT just this past year attended the national conference of Girl Scouts USA to expose younger women to the opportunities in the field of NDT. The Society also continues to host Day of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathe-matics) events for high school students in conjunction with our conferences. The next Day of STEM, taking place in Orlando this month, will mark our sixth such event. Other organizations, such as the American Advanced Technical Academy (AATA), have begun to offer free training for women who are interested in going into NDT. But we have a long, long way to go. Below, we will begin to explore some of the obstacles women face in the world of NDT. Because in order to fix any problem, you must correctly identify it first—we NDTers know that. Thank you for hearing our voices. -Introduction by Marybeth Miceli

References

ASNT, 2016, From Vision to Mission: ASNT 1941 to 2016, Columbus, Ohio. 

Yoder, Brian, 2016, “Engineering by the Numbers,” https://www.asee.org/documents/papers-and-publications/publications/college-profiles/16Profile-Front-Section.pdf

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