V.
Conclusions

Women constitute only 12 percent of the S&E work force in industry although they make up 45 percent of the total work force, a trend since 1986. This disparity in large part reflects the fact that women receive fewer S&E degrees than men. Further, women tend to hold degrees in the life sciences, behavioral sciences, and social sciences—fields in which industry traditionally has not been a major employer.

Figures for recent S&E graduates show that a considerably smaller percentage of women than men go into industrial employment. It is also documented that women in industry, at least below the Ph.D. level, are more likely than men (by a factor of about two) to drop out of S&E careers in the early years. The latter two facts suggest that a significant part of the answer to "Why so few?" lies in a less than favorable climate in industry for women scientists and engineers. The major purpose of the conference was to identify ways in which the climate in industry is less favorable to women and ways in which it could be improved. "Why so few?" is also partly the result of women still learning to cope in corporate environments dominated by men.

Conference participants examined many issues, including the influence of cultural and educational background, how women are recruited into industry, working conditions for women scientists and engineers in industry, opportunities for advancement, salaries, and work-family issues. Also discussed were personality traits and actions that women can pursue to enhance their likelihood of success.

The cultural and educational background that leads to relatively few women opting for S&E careers was discussed at the last conference sponsored by the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE)140 and again briefly at this one. It is generally acknowledged that girls and young women experience many negative messages, both from home and school, about pursuing S&E careers.141 Superimposed on the generally

140  

See Marsha Lakes Matyas and Linda Skidmore Dix (eds.), Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women?, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1992.

141  

See, for instance, Jane Butler Kahle and Marsha Lakes Matyas, op. cit.



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--> V. Conclusions Women constitute only 12 percent of the S&E work force in industry although they make up 45 percent of the total work force, a trend since 1986. This disparity in large part reflects the fact that women receive fewer S&E degrees than men. Further, women tend to hold degrees in the life sciences, behavioral sciences, and social sciences—fields in which industry traditionally has not been a major employer. Figures for recent S&E graduates show that a considerably smaller percentage of women than men go into industrial employment. It is also documented that women in industry, at least below the Ph.D. level, are more likely than men (by a factor of about two) to drop out of S&E careers in the early years. The latter two facts suggest that a significant part of the answer to "Why so few?" lies in a less than favorable climate in industry for women scientists and engineers. The major purpose of the conference was to identify ways in which the climate in industry is less favorable to women and ways in which it could be improved. "Why so few?" is also partly the result of women still learning to cope in corporate environments dominated by men. Conference participants examined many issues, including the influence of cultural and educational background, how women are recruited into industry, working conditions for women scientists and engineers in industry, opportunities for advancement, salaries, and work-family issues. Also discussed were personality traits and actions that women can pursue to enhance their likelihood of success. The cultural and educational background that leads to relatively few women opting for S&E careers was discussed at the last conference sponsored by the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE)140 and again briefly at this one. It is generally acknowledged that girls and young women experience many negative messages, both from home and school, about pursuing S&E careers.141 Superimposed on the generally 140   See Marsha Lakes Matyas and Linda Skidmore Dix (eds.), Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women?, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1992. 141   See, for instance, Jane Butler Kahle and Marsha Lakes Matyas, op. cit.

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--> negative image of scientists in this society142 are views of some people that the goals of women are incompatible with becoming a professional scientist or engineer.143 Counseling of young women, both by guidance counselors and male S&E professionals, generally does not encourage them to go into S&E careers and may actively discourage them.144 A frequently stated message is that men are inherently more capable of solving scientific and technology-related problems than women. . . . [However,] the mere nature of the subject matter lends itself equally to both males and females, to both young and old, to those who want to become scientists and to those who prefer the humanities.145 Nonetheless, one conference participant reported being told, as a minority student, by a male oceanography professor that "women can only count plankton."146 Despite his negative outlook for her, she received a degree in 142   See, for instance, A. J. S. Raye, Researchers embark on effort to improve image of scientists, The Scientist, June 22, 1992, pp. 20–21. 143   See, for instance, Jennifer Wynn, Perspective: Attracting and Retaining Female Talent, New York: Catalyst, September 1992; Robert L. Dipboye, "Problems and Progress of Women in Management," in Karen Shallcross Koziara, Michael H. Moskow, and Lucretia Deivey Tanner (eds.), Working Women: Past, Present, Future, Washington, DC: The Bureau of National Affairs Inc., 1987. 144   Douglas L. Friedman, "Minorities in Engineering School: A Data Base for Retention Efforts," NACME Research Letter, New York: National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), April 1990. 145   Yvette Dick Clifton, an Hispanic and African American chemist, presentation at the CWSE conference, Irvine, CA, January 17, 1993. 146   Catherine Tang, an engineer, speaking at the CWSE conference, Irvine, CA, January 17, 1993.

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--> mechanical engineering and started work in naval architecture but noted "these are the sorts of messages that turn young women away from technological fields." According to the Association of American Colleges, . . . some academic advisors underestimate the competence of minority women and thus counsel them to lower their sights or misdirect them on the basis of stereotypes—steering Asian-American women into mathematical and technical fields and Hispanic women into the service and health professions.147 These are not uncommon experiences for women, particularly minority women, endeavoring to pursue S&E degrees. However, there is manifestly a wide distribution of talent for science and engineering in both male and female populations. In the best interest of society, it is important to select the most qualified individuals, regardless of gender, ethnic background, race, or other demographic variables. Stereotyping of behavior and jobs as "male" or "female" poses additional difficulties. Women who try to get into fields or work areas considered "masculine," such as engineering and geoscience, face real discrimination. The commitment to her company of a pregnant woman or a woman with children tends to be questioned, with resultant downgrading of her job responsibilities and promotion opportunities. Nevertheless, a recent study indicates that the organizational commitment of women is nearly identical to that of men, despite the fact that the women in the study felt their companies offered them less opportunity than men.148 The origin of many difficulties faced by women in the corporate world is that the workplace generally reflects a male culture. Particularly negative aspects are paternalism, allegations of reverse discrimination, and sexual harassment (more often psychological than physical). Paternalism may result in women not being given jobs or assignments on the grounds that their physical strength is inadequate or the working conditions unsuitable for them. Allegations that the hiring of women is due to affirmative action or corporate quotas can undermine women's self-confidence. Another problem for women 147   Ehrhart and Sandler, op. cit. 148   Arlene Johnson, op. cit.

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--> is the perception that they have to work harder than men to prove themselves. Concomitantly, although it is documented that some women are hired at salaries comparable to, or even larger than, those of men with similar background and experiences, the median annual salary for women scientists and engineers is lower than that of men at comparable levels. The situation is even worse for minority women. It should be noted, however, that although the difficulties imposed by the male culture of the workplace are genuine, many women have self-defeating behavior, resulting from low estimates of themselves, low expectations, and low aspirations. The survey sponsored by the National Science Foundation that documented the greater attrition rate for women scientists and engineers149 found that their exit rates were highest in the first 10 years of employment. After that the rates began to converge with those of men. Data analysis showed that family status was not the determining factor; the difference in exit rates for women with different family status was small compared to the difference between women and men in the same family status category. Because the attrition of professionals represents a considerable financial loss, some companies make the effort to decrease attrition by improving working conditions for women. In at least one case, Corning, the company was successful over a period of five years in reducing the attrition rate for women to close to that of men. It should be noted that exit rates for Ph.D. women are smaller, close to those for men. Many companies have set up programs to aid in the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women. Presentations on these programs made by representatives of a number of companies showed many common elements. It was emphasized throughout that the essential underlying element for increasing the number of women in a company and for improving their situation is the commitment of top management. It is not unusual for industrial recruitment to be carried out by telephone calls to a few chosen colleagues or friends—the old boys' network. To recruit top-quality women and minorities, it is important to make a wider search. Several companies reported summer programs, scholarships, and fellowships as successful recruitment mechanisms. By these means, and regular contacts through specially assigned recruiters, these companies enhanced their success by building relationships with colleges and universities where women and minorities with the desired skills were likely to 149   Anne Preston, op. cit.

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--> be found. Another successful tactic rewards employees of a company with a bonus for referring a prospective employee who is subsequently hired. Many companies have found that corporate women's networks and advocacy groups have an important positive influence on recruitment and retention of women, providing a support system. Such a network can carry out mentoring and make suggestions to management on work-family issues or how to deal with sexual harassment, for example. It was emphasized that for the network to be successful, and to be viewed as an asset by management, its relevance to the bottom line should be clearly stated. The conference participants generally agreed that mentoring is of great importance. Research shows that women with successful S&E careers, almost without exception, had mentors who supported and encouraged them, particularly through the early phase of their careers. One company has institutionalized mentoring to the extent that each new female employee is given a mentor who is responsible for teaching the protegé how to progress in the company, encouraging her to take risks, and fully supporting her with appropriate training. To ensure the success of the mentorship program in this company, the mentors are given financial rewards, compensatory time, and other incentives. Another program found valuable by some companies is confidential one-on-one counseling, which is also made available to men. According to a recent survey of scientists and engineers in a few large technical companies, neither men nor women give their companies high marks for career development. The situation could be improved by following the recommendations of the Xerox Corporation's Women's Council: the criteria for promotion should be clarified; job opportunities throughout the company should be publicized; and internal hiring opportunities should be created to promote inter-organizational flow. The latter two measures are particularly important at a time when companies are not growing or, in fact, are shrinking. It was noted that lateral transfers may be important for subsequent promotion, but many women tend to avoid these transfers, apparently regarding them as risky. Whether or not this is the case, the glass ceiling is still a reality. Despite significant increases in the number of women in management in some companies, 95 percent of the top executive jobs in industry are held by white males. It might be argued that there have not been enough women in the pipeline in industry long enough for a sizable number to have achieved top status. However, in the cases of medicine, investment banking, and accounting, where sufficient

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--> numbers of women have been in the field long enough, the numbers in the top ranks remain much smaller than would be implied by the pipeline model. Still, some companies are making a special effort to find qualified women and to promote them. An effective way of achieving this is to make managers' performance appraisals dependent in part on their success in hiring and promoting women. Salary inequities between men and women also are being addressed by some companies. Seeing clearly that maximum productivity of all employees is best for the bottom line, some companies are attempting to improve the climate for women and to remove obstacles to their performance by "sensitivity training." One company shows groups of employees, including managers at all levels, videos made by professional actors portraying undesirable behavior toward women that has occurred within the group. Another type of effort for improving the climate is providing role models. In this respect, minority women have been less fortunate, minority role models in science and engineering being even scarcer than for white women. Work-family issues are of paramount importance; how a company addresses these issues has a great effect on its ability to retain women scientists and engineers. Paid maternity leave of six weeks or more, plus the possibility of unpaid leave beyond that, is offered by some companies. Two companies reported lactation facilities for the use of nursing mothers. Because, as many studies indicate, the major responsibility for child and dependent care and household chores still falls largely on women, it is important for companies to have options for part-time work and some flexibility in working hours. Many women stressed that taking advantage of the option for part-time work, however, carries a stigma, jeopardizing future advancement. In addition to destigmatizing part-time work, companies should be flexible about allowing employees to take time off for sick children and other family emergencies. Part-time and flexible arrangements are particularly important because women who leave for a time, due to dependent care or other problems, find it difficult to return to science and engineering, and are thus forced to begin new occupations.150 Some companies provide on-site day care for children. Others have taken leadership roles in developing community initiatives to improve the supply and quality of child care. Where the latter is not considered a problem, as in large communities, a company might provide referrals to 150   Ibid.

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--> child-care facilities. A helpful trend recently found in some companies is "cafeteria benefits," or the tailoring of a benefits package to the needs of the individual. Another important work-family issue is that of dual-career couples. Some companies still will not hire two family members, even in different departments. A helpful approach, if only one spouse is hired, is for the company to provide active assistance in finding a job for the other. Discussion at the conference also focused on attitudes and strategies for women to achieve successful careers in industry. Five attributes appear to be common to women (and men) who have successfully pursued industrial careers in science and engineering: (1)   technical expertise and competence; (2)   ability to establish goals and take risks; (3)   strong communication skills, including the ability to express the desire for a promotion and to deal tactfully with men having negative attitudes about women in the workplace; (4)   self-confidence; and (5)   openness to change. To achieve successful careers in industry, women scientists and engineers were advised to (1) set objectives, (2) meet performance requirements, (3) know their organization, and (4) seek opportunities for self development. A complementary set of recommendations for managers of women scientists and engineers in industry emphasized communication of what is required for corporate and individual success and for support of employees' career planning and professional development. Successful managers, in addition to the five traits listed above, should have a positive or "can-do" attitude, a sense of humor, and a desire to help others. It was noted that management skills can be learned, much as technical skills are. Women in management can and should use their power and influence to improve the situation for other women. More and more S&E women, frustrated by the constricted opportunities and obstacles they found in industry, have become entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurship requires, in addition to the attributes mentioned above, strong leadership skills, which can be learned, and the ability to seize an opportunity and take action. It was agreed, however, that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Minority women in industry by and large suffer more discrimination than white women. Their cultural backgrounds often pose additional barriers

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--> to an S&E career than is the case for white women. Nevertheless, it was the consensus of conference participants that minority women are strengthened by retaining their ethnic and cultural heritage. In these volatile economic times, some programs to recruit and advance women have been curtailed. It is important to remember, however, that, particularly in the international competitive race in which we now find ourselves, it is essential to employ the best talent, whatever the gender or race. In suggesting the steps that might be taken by participants in U.S. industry—individual scientists and engineers, their managers, and CEOs of corporations—the Committee concurs with the assessments of several conference participants: What benefits women usually benefits men. What we need to do is show how these changes make sense for us as a society.151 However, Society cannot change until people change, [but] change is an important page in the manual for the survival of women in industry. Equality can only be achieved as both men and women are emancipated from the past and willingly reject traditional beliefs, values, and methods.152 151   Catherine J. Didion, executive director of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), speaking at the CWSE conference, Irvine, CA, January 17, 1993. For more information about AWIS, contact Ms. Didion at 1522 K Street NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005. 152   Paula Graham, op. cit.