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By Jack Ganssle

Babe Magnets

Summary: Are engineers particularly attractive to the opposite sex?

The beginning of a new year is not a bad time to have some fun with politically sensitive subjects.

In my recent article about job churn (http://www.eetimes.com/discussion/break-points/4211273/Job-Churn), a reader identified as tfc suggested that years ago engineers were "babe magnets," but he laments that's no longer the case. Sadly, my experience doesn't support the first part of his thesis, and many engineering pals also spent many a Saturday night deriving instead of dating. Not a few speculated long and hard about creating a robotic girlfriend. (Back then it was rare indeed for a woman to enter this field).

40 years ago the IEEE student lounge at the University of Maryland had a poster of a bikini-clad young lady, running with arms akimbo, exclaiming to her friends how happy she was that "my guy knows calculus!" Even we 18 year old Freshmen knew such a dream could only be parody. Some of the students had copies of the poster in their pocket protectors. Back then engineers were clearly marked by the slide rules dangling from our belts, so the opposite sex had ample warning to get away before being trapped in a passionate bar conversation about Eigenvectors.

Sure, there were more than a few of us who were really weird, in some cases unable to even hold a simple conversation about anything other than electronics. I have often wondered if this field selects for people who are more comfortable interacting with a soldering iron or computer than with a human being. If so, then the anecdotes about techies and unrequited love makes some sense.

Evolutionary biology suggests that women, at least, are attracted to hunks - men who have the physical prowess to defend the family. Pushing bits around is hardly aerobic exercise so engineers tend to strike out in that department. But being a good provider has traditionally been another plus in the mating game. In that respect engineers are the ideal catch! In the US the average engineer's salary approaches six figures, an astonishing five times the poverty guideline for a family of four (http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/09poverty.shtml), and twice the US median family income (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html).

Does a washboard wallet make up for unsculpted abs?

Those Wall Street tycoons may appear to be, financially at least, great mates, but in a twist peppered with delicious irony, day trading is being outsourced to China! (http://www.cnbc.com/id/40604169/Day_Trading_Still_Alive_Outsourced_to_China). Companies who spend lavishly to bring in the best of the best (for instance, the captains of industry who built pyramids of toxic mortgages) may be better served by ditching the $500m/year flashy trader and send the work to a dollar an hour trader halfway around the world. So be wary, you on the hunt for that perfect catch: that Bernie Madoff knock-off may soon be selling apples and pencils. An engineer might be a better pick.

Being a person of stature also enhances sex appeal. Reader BRS2, in responding to the article about job churn, claims that in Austria an engineer's wife gets the title "Frau Diplom-Ingenieur." (Some Googling suggests this isn't true, but the apparently-authoritative sources are all in German. And for the sake of this piece fun trumps truth). Marry an Austrian engineer and be like nobility!

Finally, a study suggests that engineers are among the best at maintaining stable marriages (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/16/AR2010091607509.html). The 2000 census counted divorced people, and found that three categories of engineers have divorce rates under 7%. Bartenders - those ever-so-cool guys epitomized by Tom Cruise in Cocktail - are among the worst with a 38% divorce rate. (Note that "divorce rate" is a misnomer since the number really represents the percentage of people divorced at the time of the study.)

Meet the sex star of the 2000s: The engineer.

Published January 2, 2011