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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
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CAREER
CHOICES
OF FEMALE
ENGINEERS

A SUMMARY OF A WORKSHOP

Sara Frueh, Rapporteur

Committee on Career Outcomes of Female Engineering Bachelor’s Degree Recipients
Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine

Policy and Global Affairs

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING AND
                 NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
                  OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.

www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
×

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. HRD-1137641 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor who provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number 13: 978-0-309-30581-5
International Standard Book Number 10: 0-309-30581-0

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
×

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
×

COMMITTEE ON CAREER OUTCOMES OF FEMALE ENGINEERING BACHELOR’S DEGREE RECIPIENTS

ALICE AGOGINO (NAE)*, Chair, Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

JOANNE MCGRATH COHOON, Associate Professor, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia, and Senior Research Scientist, National Center for Women and Information Technology

ALLAN FISHER, Higher Education Executive, Laureate Education, INTI International University in Malaysia

F. SUZANNE JENNICHES, Vice President and General Manager (retired), Government Systems Division, Northrop Grumman Corporation

LILIAN S. WU, Program Executive, Global University Programs, IBM

SHELDON WEINBAUM (NAS, NAE and IOM)*, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, City College of New York

STAFF

CATHERINE DIDION, Director

NINA BOSTON, Senior Program Assistant

CAMERON FLETCHER, Editor

SARA FREUH, Communication Writer

WEI JING, Research Associate (Until May 2014)

 

* Denotes members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and Institutes of Medicine (IOM)

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
×

COMMITTEE ON WOMEN IN SCIENCE, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE

POLICY AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS DIVISION

RITA R. COLWELL (NAS)*, Chair, Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland, College Park and Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

ALICE AGOGINO (NAE)*, Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

JOAN W. BENNETT (NAS)*, Professor, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, and Associate Vice President, Office for Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics, Rutgers University

JEREMY M. BERG (IOM)*, Associate Senior Vice Chancellor for Science, University of Pittsburgh

ROBERT J. BIRGENEAU (NAS)*, Chancellor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

JENNIFER CHAYES, Distinguished Scientists and Managing Director, Microsoft Research New England

EDWARD D. LAZOWSKA (NAE)*, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington

VIVIAN PINN (IOM)*, Senior Scientist Emerita, Fogarty International Center, and Former Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health (Retired), National Institutes of Health

PATRICIA TABOADA-SERRANO, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Early-Career Representative, Women for Science Working Group, InterAmerican Network of Academies of Sciences

VALERIE TALYOR, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Dwight Look College of Engineering, Texas A&M University, and Executive Director, Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities

LYDIA VILLA-KOMAROFF, Chief Scientific Officer, Cytonome/ST, LLC

SUSAN WESSLER (NAS)*, Distinguished Professor of Genetics, University of California, Riverside

SHEDLON WEINBAUM (NAS/NAE/IOM), CUNY Distinguished Professor, The City College of the City University of New York

STAFF

CATHERINE DIDION, Director

NINA BOSTON, Senior Program Assistant

SARA FRUEH, Communication Writer

WEI JING, Research Associate (Until May 2014)

 

* Denotes members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and Institutes of Medicine (IOM)

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
×

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

An ad hoc planning committee, under the auspices of the standing Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine (CWSEM), convened a public workshop to examine the career outcomes of women recipients of bachelor’s degrees in engineering. The importance of educating and training a technical workforce has received significant public interest lately, but there has been much less on the subject of retaining scientific and technical employees in the workforce. The retention of workers in these areas is particularly challenging for women and underrepresented minorities. The workshop that is the focus of this report was organized to address career pathways and advancement, areas of priority for the CWSEM. The committee is interested in (1) understanding gender differences in the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women at critical transition points and (2) investigating and disseminating the best practices to facilitate career transitions and advancement for all.

The workshop was scheduled to coincide with the 2013 National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) Engineering Convocation, an annual event that draws leaders of many engineering societies and associations. This provided an opportunity for both the participation of these leaders in the workshop and the discussion and dissemination of the research results conducted through this project.

The committee commissioned research by independent experts to analyze relevant data for the workshop; the resulting papers are included in the appendices to this report. Gail Greenfield’s research used nationally representative data on baccalaureate-trained engineers—from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B)—to answer research questions about gender differences in postbachelor’s retention in engineering careers. This work was complemented by the research of Nadya Fouad and Romila Singh in their surveys of women trained as engineers and their retention in the workforce. In addition, a group of graduate students from Carnegie Mellon University conducted a literature search and a survey of small and medium businesses and the composition of their information technology workforce, which included many fields of engineering. This work was commissioned in an effort to address the following questions:

•   What are the similarities and differences in career outcomes for women and men with bachelor’s degrees in engineering?

•   Why are there differences in women’s and men’s retention in engineering?

There were challenges in accessing data that could be disaggregated by specific field (e.g., electrical engineering) and ensuring robust cell sizes that could include demographic information. Professional societies may well be a resource for collecting recent field-specific data that can inform future research.

The workshop discussions uncovered interesting, puzzling, and even alarming trends. For instance, the B&B data showed that the retention rates for all cohorts of men in engineering remained fairly steady one year after graduation, whereas there was dramatic variation in the retention rates for women, depending on the cohort population (defined by the year of graduation): female retention rates one year after graduation were 67.8 percent for Cohort 1 in 1994, 51.6 percent in 2001 (Cohort 2), and a comparatively dismal 36.4 percent in 2009 (Cohort 3). The survey data for Cohort 3 indicate that for these women it was harder to find jobs they wanted in locations they desired in comparison to men. In addition, more women in Cohort 3 cited poor working conditions as a factor for leaving engineering (8.5 percent) compared to men (only 0.5 percent), indicating that climate and work opportunities remain important problems to be addressed to reduce gender differences in retention in engineering.

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
×

It may also be useful to follow retention rates for women in the different disciplines, given the wide range of representation in various fields—low in electrical and mechanical engineering, for example, and high in environmental and bioengineering.

I am grateful to my colleagues who served on the workshop planning committee; to Sara Frueh, who ably captured and summarized the workshop presentations and discussion; and to all the speakers and participants in the conference. I also thank Joanne Cohoon, Ruthe Farmer, Allan Fisher, and Lilian Wu, advisors to the Carnegie Mellon University graduate students’ project, “Women in IT: Recruit Them & Retain Them.”

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies’ Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process. We thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

Erin Cadwalader, Association for Women in Science

Melissa Carl, American Society of Mechanical Engineering

Donna Ginther, University of Kansas

Robert Green, National Society of Professional Engineers

Julie Martin, Clemson University

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the report, nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Marigold Linton, University of Kansas. Appointed by the National Academies, she was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the rapporteur and the institution.

This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award # HRD-1137641. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Alice Agogino, Chair

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
×

Contents

1    INTRODUCTION

2    CAREER OUTCOMES OF WOMEN ENGINEERING BACHELOR’S DEGREE RECIPIENTS
Gail Greenfield, Counsel and Principal, Mercer Consulting

3    STEMMING THE TIDE: WHY WOMEN LEAVE ENGINEERING
Nadya Fouad, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; and
Romila Singh, Associate Professor, Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

4  DISCUSSION ON RETAINING TECHNICAL TALENT: DATA NEEDS, CRITICAL, TRANSITIONS, AND CAREER PATHWAYS

5    TECHNICAL WOMEN IN SMALL AND MEDIUM BUSINESSES
Emily Blakemore, Angie Im, Channing Martin, Albery Melo, Sara Raju, and Elizabeth Schuelke, The H. John Heinz III College, Carnegie Mellon University

6    CLOSING DISCUSSION

APPENDIXES

A    Workshop Agenda

B    List of Participants

C    Biographies of Speakers

D    Stemming the Tide: Why Women Engineers Stay in or Leave the Engineering Profession
Nadya Fouad, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and Romila Singh, Associate Professor, Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

E    Women in IT: Recruit Them & Retain Them
Emily Blakemore, Angie Im, Channing Martin, Albery, Melo, Sara Raju, and Elizabeth Schuelke, The H. John Heinz III College, Carnegie Mellon University

F    Presentation slides from Gail Greenfield on “Career Outcomes of Women Engineering Bachelor’s Degree Recipients”
Gail Greenfield, Senior Program Officer, National Research Council, and Counsel and Principal, Mercer Consulting

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18810.
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Despite decades of government, university, and employer efforts to close the gender gap in engineering, women make up only 11 percent of practicing engineers in the United States. What factors influence women graduates' decisions to enter the engineering workforce and either to stay in or leave the field as their careers progress? Researchers are both tapping existing data and fielding new surveys to help answer these questions.

On April 24, 2013, the National Research Council Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine held a workshop to explore emerging research and to discuss career pathways and outcomes for women who have received bachelor's degrees in engineering. Participants included academic researchers and representatives from the Department of Labor, National Science Foundation, and Census Bureau, as well as several engineering professional societies. Career Choices of Female Engineers summarizes the presentations and discussions of the workshop.

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