Executive Summary

Women comprise about 12 percent of the employed scientific and engineering (S&E) labor force in industry. While this is due in part to the specific subfields selected by women, another significant contributing factor is the attrition rate for women scientists and engineers in industry, which is double that for men and substantially higher than for other employment sectors. These compelling facts led the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) of the National Research Council to plan a conference, "Women Scientists and Engineers Employed in Industry: Why So Few?," to examine the workplace environment for women pursuing careers in industry. The conference provided a forum for women scientists and engineers to share data and personal experiences to uncover the principal causes of underrepresentation of S&E women in industry and to explore effective strategies for change. In addition, representatives of five companies having established exemplary programs to recruit and retain women scientists and engineers—Aerospace Corporation, ALCOA, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Xerox Corporate Research and Technology, and Scios Nova—described strategies proven to be effective in removing barriers for women scientists and engineers.

Limited access is the first hurdle faced by women seeking industrial jobs in science and engineering. While progress has been made in this area in recent years, common recruitment and hiring practices that make extensive use of traditional networks often overlook the available pool of women. Once on the job, many women find paternalism, sexual harassment, allegations of reverse discrimination, different standards for judging the work of men and women, lower salary relative to their male peers, inequitable job assignments, and other aspects of a male-oriented culture that are hostile to women. Women to a greater extent than men find limited opportunities for advancement, particularly for moving into management positions. The number of women who have achieved the top levels in corporations is much lower than would be expected, based on the pipeline model.

Conferees agreed that attention to work-family issues is of paramount importance for retention of women scientists and engineers. Other important measures to improve the environment for women are mentoring and the establishment of women's networks.

The initiatives for improving the climate for women taken by the five companies noted above had many common elements, the most important being chief executive officer support. Other elements included availability of



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--> Executive Summary Women comprise about 12 percent of the employed scientific and engineering (S&E) labor force in industry. While this is due in part to the specific subfields selected by women, another significant contributing factor is the attrition rate for women scientists and engineers in industry, which is double that for men and substantially higher than for other employment sectors. These compelling facts led the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) of the National Research Council to plan a conference, "Women Scientists and Engineers Employed in Industry: Why So Few?," to examine the workplace environment for women pursuing careers in industry. The conference provided a forum for women scientists and engineers to share data and personal experiences to uncover the principal causes of underrepresentation of S&E women in industry and to explore effective strategies for change. In addition, representatives of five companies having established exemplary programs to recruit and retain women scientists and engineers—Aerospace Corporation, ALCOA, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Xerox Corporate Research and Technology, and Scios Nova—described strategies proven to be effective in removing barriers for women scientists and engineers. Limited access is the first hurdle faced by women seeking industrial jobs in science and engineering. While progress has been made in this area in recent years, common recruitment and hiring practices that make extensive use of traditional networks often overlook the available pool of women. Once on the job, many women find paternalism, sexual harassment, allegations of reverse discrimination, different standards for judging the work of men and women, lower salary relative to their male peers, inequitable job assignments, and other aspects of a male-oriented culture that are hostile to women. Women to a greater extent than men find limited opportunities for advancement, particularly for moving into management positions. The number of women who have achieved the top levels in corporations is much lower than would be expected, based on the pipeline model. Conferees agreed that attention to work-family issues is of paramount importance for retention of women scientists and engineers. Other important measures to improve the environment for women are mentoring and the establishment of women's networks. The initiatives for improving the climate for women taken by the five companies noted above had many common elements, the most important being chief executive officer support. Other elements included availability of

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--> flexible work schedules, part-time employment, and parental leave programs; involvement in providing or recommending day-care facilities; and counseling programs. Career development was facilitated by clarification of the criteria for promotion and by efforts to increase mobility through lateral transfers. Evaluation by some companies has shown that initiatives such as these yield measurable improvements in the retention of women. Given the issues faced by women scientists and engineers in industry, an important component of the conference was to identify effective strategies for succeeding in a technological career in the industrial employment sector. In particular, conference participants considered the attributes and strategies of women scientists and engineers who had succeeded. These women, above all, have excellent technical skills and are self-confident, able to establish clear goals, and comfortable taking risks. They communicate well and are open to change, particularly in the area of professional growth. Women managers must have, in addition to these qualities, a feeling of empowerment, a "can-do" attitude, and a commitment to helping others. Not surprisingly, these are also the attributes of successful men. Many people have questioned the advisability of encouraging women to go into S&E careers at a time when there are few job openings in some fields. Conferees agreed that, particularly in difficult times, it is essential for companies to have the most talented people, whatever their gender or race. Clearly the essential recommendations that emerged from the conference that will benefit women will also benefit men and will be critical to the health of the corporate sector.

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--> Maria Isabel Soto uses a scanning electron microscope to find defects in an electrical circuit. (Photo: The Aerospace Corporation)

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--> Bob Opila and Amy Muller prepare a scanning Auger microprobe for analysis. (Photo: AT&T Bell Laboratories)