Nadya A. Fouad and Romila Singh
University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Consider this: millions of dollars in federal and private funding have focused on helping women enter and stay in STEM fields. In fact, in 2011, the President’s Committee on STEM Education found that $3.4 billion dollars were spent by various federal agencies on STEM education, with about a third of that ($1,086 million) focused on increasing all underrepresented groups’ participation in STEM careers and about 10 percent of that funding ($13.28 million) explicitly directed towards girls and women in STEM education (CoSTEM, 2011). Most of that funding has focused on intensive early education initiatives to help promote girls’ interests in math and science and introducing them to engineering as a career. Juxtapose these investments with the almost steady and very low graduation rate for women engineers (11%) over the last two decades (NSF, 2011) and one can clearly see that despite numerous interventions, engineering remains one of the most sex-segregated occupations in the United States. This trend also echoes in the continued underrepresentation of women engineers in technical workplaces. What is even more concerning is that female engineers who do enter technical workplaces, end up leaving at a rate that’s four times as much as their male counterparts (SWE, 2007). The loss of women engineers from technical workplaces has implications for the organizations, for the women who leave, and for our society as a whole. Against this backdrop, this article takes a critical look at the key differences between women engineers who left technical workplaces and those who are currently working in engineering. Using key vocational and management theories, we expose the points of convergence and divergence in the experiences of these two groups of women engineers from different racial and ethnic groups.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
US leadership in technical innovation has been a vigorous force behind our nation’s economic prosperity for at least the last 50 years. Recent concern about declining numbers of U.S. citizens choosing to enter technical careers and the increase in technological talent and jobs overseas led Congress to ask the National Academy of Sciences to analyze the U.S. technical talent pool and make policy recommendations to advance U.S. competitiveness in global research and development markets (Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, 2007). The report effectively argued for the increased importance of technology to the US economy, demonstrated global trends in research and development that favor other countries, and highlighted the need for concrete action to enhance U.S. competitiveness. In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences revisited the report and evaluated progress on the recommendations. The title of the 2010 report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5 is telling in the alarm the committee voiced about the lack of resources to implement the recommendations, the lack of preparation of K-12 students to enter science and engineering careers, the role of science and engineering in creating new jobs to help bolster the economy and, finally, the important finding that other nations are effectively competing with the US in technology and science.
We would add one more point to those made by the NAS (2005; 2010) reports: it is critical to keep current engineers and scientists in their organizations and the profession. Increased difficulty to secure visas to study and work in the United States combined with additional opportunities in other countries (especially India, China, and Brazil) have led to an increased reliance on US-born and -educated scientists and engineers. But at the same time, the Department of Labor predicts that domestic growth in engineering jobs is declining as manufacturing and design is done more globally
and a larger than average number of engineers are approaching retirement age (DOL, 2011). This issue acquires even greater urgency in light of a trend that shows that engineers leave the field at a rate four times that of doctors, three and a half times that of lawyers and judges, and 15-30 percent more than nurses or college teachers (Preston, 1994). Specific to women engineers, we already know that roughly half of the women who graduate from engineering leave the field (AAUW, 2010; NAS, 2011). A report released by the Society of Women Engineers (2007) suggests that women leave engineering careers in part because they encounter a chilly organizational climate when they reach childbearing age and desire to balance work and family roles. Of course, individuals leave all professions to pursue other occupations, but we argue that it is critical to U.S. technological competitiveness and to national security, to help understand factors that will help engineering organizations retain its highly trained female workforce and prevent avoidable turnover. Against this backdrop of disturbing trends in engineering as a whole, and specifically, among women engineers, we sought to understand factors related to women engineers’ intentions to leave the organization and the profession and uncover key differences between women who left engineering and those who persisted in engineering careers.
FRAMEWORK FOR THE STUDY
We identified the top 50 universities that graduate women in engineering programs, as well as the top 20 universities that graduate Latino, African American and Asian engineers and used these lists to contact the deans of Colleges or Schools of Engineering and invite their engineering alumnae to participate in the study. Nearly half of the universities responded affirmatively, and in the end, thirty universities representing every region of the country, including large public and private institutions and universities known for their technology programs, agreed to participate.
In some instances, emails and postcards were used to contact female engineering alumnae whose addresses were provided to the team by the university. In other cases, the alumni offices sent the link to their alumnae themselves. Women interested in participating in this study were directed to a dedicated website and a link to the online survey. However, we realized that women were sending the link to their female engineering friends and co-workers. In the end, although we started with alumnae from 30 universities, women from an additional 200 universities participated in the survey after hearing about the study in the media and through colleagues.
Profile of Participants
A total of 5,562 women who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering participated and completed the study. Of this, 554 (10 percent) women obtained a degree but never worked as engineers, 1,365 (29 percent) women previously worked as engineers but had left the field since (279 of these left less than five years ago), and 3,324 (60 percent) women are currently working in engineering. This article is solely focused on those women who are currently working in engineering (labeled “persisters) and compares them with women who left engineering within the past five years (labeled “non-persisters”). These two groups received the entire survey; the other two groups filled out shorter versions of the survey. We chose five years as a cutoff point for comparison to ensure recall accuracy and minimize the potential for recollection biases.
A Comprehensive Portrait of Women Engineers: Those Who Stay and Those Who Leave
The top majors for women currently working in engineering were chemical, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering. Forty three percent received additional degrees; most had a master’s or MBA, and 2 percent had earned a PhD. The graduates represented over three decades of engineering education: 9 percent graduated prior to 1984, 10 percent in 1984–1989, 7 percent in 1990–1994, 11 percent in 1995–1999, 14 percent in 2000–2004, and 12 percent after 2005. Most women self-identified as Caucasian (84 percent), with 3 percent identifying themselves as Latina, 2 percent as African American, 3 percent as Multiracial, and 8 percent as Asian or Asian-American.
Similar to women currently working in engineering, the majority (79 percent) of those who had left engineering less than five years ago also self-identified themselves as Caucasian followed by Asian-Americans (8 percent), 3 percent each representing African-American, Latina, and multiracial groups, and 2 percent reported belonging to “other” category.
With regard to their marital status, 70 percent reported being married or in a committed relationship, while 23 percent reported never having married. Only a quarter reported being parents. Current women engineers in our sample were no less likely to be married as their counterparts who left engineering less than five years ago, but less likely to be parents.
Current engineers reported working on an average for 43.5 hours/week, being with their employer for 8 years, and earning a median income of between $76,000-$100,000 a year. Among this group, two-thirds reported that the gender composition of their work group was either mostly men or all men. About half (51 percent) reported working as individual contributors with no direct reports, while 30 percent worked as project managers, and 16 percent were in executive positions. The top industries represented were consulting (16 percent), aerospace (10 percent), electronics (6 percent), education (6 percent), construction (5 percent), computer engineering (4 percent) and utilities (4 percent).
There were no significant differences between women
who are currently working in engineering and those who left engineering less than five years ago in terms of the hours worked (39 hours/week), length of tenure with their company (10 years), average range of salary reported (between $51,000 and $75,000), and both groups were likewise most likely to have graduated with chemical, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering degrees.
Unlike women who are currently working in engineering, women who left engineering were more likely to be in management and executive positions (53.8 percent) and project management roles (21.9 percent). The least common positions occupied by these engineers were nonmanagement roles (24.4 percent). Unlike women who are currently in engineering, the majority of women who left within the past 5 years were in an executive role. Finally, for those in management positions, the majority indicated that they had 1 to 4 direct reports and were most likely to work in groups that were predominantly male; however, a larger number who left engineering (26 percent) reported working in gender balanced groups.
In sum, current and former engineers do not differ in terms of race, marital status, or engineering major, salary level, or number of direct reports. They do differ, however, in their current role, with former engineers more likely to be in management or executive positions.
Are there Differences in Self-Confidence Beliefs or Interests Between Persisters and Non-Persisters?
In a word, no. In our study, we examined three types of self-confidence beliefs that can potentially influence one’s decision to stay in, or leave engineering: first, confidence beliefs regarding one’s ability to perform technical and engineering tasks, second, confidence beliefs regarding one’s ability to navigate the political environment at work, and finally, confidence in one’s ability to manage multiple life roles such as being a worker, parent, and/or spouse/partner. Our results revealed that, compared to women who are currently working in engineering, women who are no longer working in engineering did not have significantly different levels of confidence in their abilities to perform engineering tasks, navigate the political environment at work, or juggle multiple life roles.
Interests: According to prominent vocational psychologists, individuals seek out jobs, careers, and work environments that match or fit their dominant interests, which in turn enables them to fully flourish in those chosen fields or areas. Our analyses revealed no significant differences in different types of interests between women currently working in engineering and those that left the technical workplaces less than five years ago.
Are there Differences in Experiences of Workplace Support Between Persisters and Non-Persisters?
Yes. At a very broad level, workplace support is reflected in the extent to which a company values the contributions of its employees and shows care and concern toward the employees’ wellbeing thereby inhibiting their desire to leave the firm.
Workplace support is also manifest in the overall climate that allows supervisors and managers to be accommodating and responsive to their subordinates’ non-work responsibilities and makes it conducive to their managing multiple life role obligations. More tangibly, it also encompasses the extent to which formal work-life policies (such as part-time work, job-sharing, paid and unpaid leaves of absence, and flexible work arrangements) are provided and used to manage work-life roles. The supportiveness of a company may also be seen in the provision of training and development opportunities and clear and tangible avenues for advancement that were made available to employees. Finally, workplace support can also be gauged at a more immediate and micro level by understanding the social support provided by one’s supervisors and co-workers.
In sum, we examined women engineers’ perceptions of workplace support at two levels. First, the participants reported the extent to which their organizations supported their training and development, provided avenues for promotion, valued and recognized their contributions at work, offered work-life initiatives, and created a supportive climate for fulfilling multiple life role obligations. Second, we examined the extent to which the women engineers received support from their supervisors and coworkers.
Our analyses revealed three key findings. First, we found that women currently working in engineering were significantly more likely than women who left engineering to perceive opportunities for training and development designed to help them advance to the next level. They also perceived greater opportunities for advancement within their organizations compared to women who had left engineering. Second, women engineers currently working in engineering reported fewer work-life benefits available to them as compared to their counterparts who had left engineering, but were significantly more likely to have used those benefits. Finally, current engineers were significantly more likely to report both supervisor and co-worker support, and that the climate was supportive of their need to balance work and non-work roles. There were no significant differences between the two groups on all other workplace supports, nor were there any significant differences among different racial ethnic minorities in their experience of a supportive workplace.
Are There Differences in Experiences of Workplace Barriers Between Persisters and Non-Persisters?
Again, yes. Workplace barriers exemplify any influences that detract and hinder employees from pursuing their goals, deciding a course of action, and making a fulfilling choice. We examined two broad categories of barriers in this study, both of which were anchored in the work environment. The first set of factors tapped into the perceptions of incivility in the workplace that was captured by the extent to which supervisors, senior managers, and coworkers treated women in a condescending, patronizing, or discourteous manner (Minor-Rubino & Cortina, 2007). We also directly assessed the extent to which supervisors and co-workers engaged in undermining behaviors at work such as insulting women, talking badly about them behind their backs, belittling them or their ideas, making them feel incompetent, and/or talking down to them (Duffy, Ganster, & Pagon 2002). The second set of hindrances focused more on role-level barriers such as the extent to which women engineers lacked clarity in their roles, experienced contradictory and conflicting work requests and requirements, and felt overburdened with excessive work responsibilities without commensurate resources.
Women who are currently working in engineering have to face and contend with a variety of barriers at work. However, our results revealed few areas of differences between women who left engineering and those who stayed in the field. Compared to women who are currently working in engineering, one of the biggest barriers that former engineers reported facing was working in an environment that belittled and treated women in a condescending, patronizing manner. The former engineers also reported being systematically undermined by their supervisors compared to their counterparts still working in engineering. Racial and ethnic minorities also reported being undermined by their supervisors more frequently than their Caucasian counterparts. While there were no differences between current and former engineers in their experiences of work-role barriers, racial and ethnic minorities experienced more frequent role conflicts stemming from incompatible work demands from different stakeholders.
In sum, as compared to women who left engineering, those who are currently working in engineering have greater extent of support from their organizations in the form of training, development, and advancement opportunities, and supportive supervisors and coworkers. At the same time, current engineers experienced far fewer barriers at work in the form of incivility and undermining behaviors as compared to those who left less than five years ago.
What Influences Desire to Leave Engineering?
Some of the strongest and most proximal correlates of turnover intentions are job attitudes such as satisfaction and commitment. Women currently working in engineering reported being significantly more satisfied with their careers and the engineering profession than women who had left technical workplaces less than five years ago. Further, current women engineers were also significantly less likely to express intentions to leave the profession than women who had left technical workplaces. We also found that engineers who felt satisfied with their careers and committed to the engineering profession were less likely to want to leave the engineering profession. Finally, our results revealed a very strong positive correlation between engineers’ intentions to leave their firms and their desire to leave the engineering profession.
STEMMING THE TIDE: KEY TRENDS THAT EXPLAIN WHY WOMEN ENGINEERS STAY OR LEAVE
The consideration to leave’s one profession represents one of the significant events in any employee’s career. Given that engineering represents one of the professions that is losing its highly trained personnel at a rate faster than comparable technical professions, the results of our study have important implications for the engineering profession as a whole as well as organizations that employ engineers. Our comparison between women who left engineering less than five years ago and those who are still working in engineering revealed four key trends:
- No differences between self-confidence in performing engineering tasks, navigating politics at work, and managing multiple work-nonwork roles.
- No differences in interests between persisters and non-persisters.
- What does differentiate these two groups of women engineers from one another is their experience of supportive and encumbering factors in the workplace.
- The two groups differ in their level of commitment and satisfaction with the engineering profession and their careers, respectively; persisters reported a higher degree of career satisfaction and career commitment than their counterparts who no longer worked in engineering.
Dispelling Some Common Myths about Women Engineers
One of the common misconceptions in the popular literature on women in engineering has centered around the notion that women who either quit engineering or are not successful in engineering careers lack the self-confidence in their technical abilities. Our finding is contrary to this anecdotal evidence as well as a few other small-sample studies that point to women’s lack of self-confidence as a primary driver for their lack of persistence in engineering. Taken in
conjunction, these results imply that women engineers’ self-confidence (or lack thereof) plays no role in their decision to leave the profession.
Along the same lines, the lack of significant differences in interests between the persisters and non-persisters implies that women who are currently working in engineering do not have different interests from their counterparts who left engineering workplaces. In other words, our finding dents the anecdotal narrative that a ‘loss of interest’ differentiates these two groups of women engineers, or in some way, guides these women to think about leaving the profession.
Another common notion that is commonly offered to explain why women engineers leave engineering has to due to with women’s desire to stay home with the children. What is not captured in this narrative, but revealed in our data, is that women engineers who decide to quit engineering do so as a last resort, after exploring and exhausting all options for flexible work within their organizations. As evidenced in our study, women currently working in engineering reported making use of the few work-life benefits that were offered to them compared to their counterparts who quit engineering. What was more compelling is that former engineers reported working in organizations characterized by cultures that were not supportive of their needs to balance work and family obligations. In other words, lack of workplace flexibility and non-supportive work-life cultures operate to force women engineers to quit technical workplaces when faced with equally compelling sets of work and parenting responsibilities, rather than women’s lack of willingness to persist in engineering when they become mothers.
Why Despite Leaning In, Women Engineers Are
Getting Pushed Back (and Out): It’s the Climate!
Clearly, women engineers’ self-confidence and level of engineering interest does not appear to be related to their departure from engineering. Moreover, they work hard and long hours, and are committed to the engineering profession. What does set the current and former engineers apart is the workplace climate that they encounter: whether it is supportive or chilly. Overall, our findings revealed that women currently working in engineering, as compared to those who left engineering, experienced a supportive workplace that provided them with opportunities for training, development, and advancement within their organizations. Moreover, current engineers worked with empathic and understanding supervisors and coworkers, especially supervisors who were supportive of their need to balance work and non-work roles.
Another element of a supportive work environment that emerged as a differentiator between women working in engineering and those who had left was the presence of a family friendly work culture characterized by recognition of the importance of work-life balance. Although current women engineers reported fewer work-life benefits available to them as compared to their counterparts who had left engineering, they were significantly more likely to have used those benefits. Work-life benefit availability and use are closely anchored to the underlying work-life culture.
We also detected a complementary trend, albeit in the form of workplace barriers: women who were currently current engineers experienced far fewer barriers at work in the form of incivility and undermining behaviors as compared to those who left less than five years ago. Undermining and incivility behaviors are indicative of a toxic work environment that can pose a hostile and seemingly insurmountable barrier to women engineers’ persistence and progress in engineering with the potential of driving them out of the profession.
Taken in conjunction, the results with regard to the experience of workplace barriers and supports point toward workplace climate being the biggest differentiator that sets apart women who are currently working in engineering from those left the technical field. What pushes women engineers away from persistence and success in engineering has nothing to do with their self-confidence or interests and everything to with inadequate training and development opportunities, lack of advancement avenues, role related stresses, and their experience of a hostile, chilly climate.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR KEY STAKEHOLDERS
Implications and Recommendations for Organizations
In his State of the Union Address in 2011, President Obama exhorted the nation to “win the future” and stated that increasing the number of women engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields is critical to our Nation’s ability to “out-build, out-educate, and out-innovate” future competitors. The recommendations derived from our study help us to move one step closer to fulfilling President Obama’s mandate by providing critical achievement data that can enable organizations, educators, and policymakers to thoughtfully craft initiatives and programs that advance and optimize women’s engagement in technical careers.
At the very outset, we must emphasize that all data from our research points to one overarching conclusion which is that women engineers’ departure from technical workplaces and engineering fields is not a “women’s issue.” Instead, it presents itself as organizational and institutional failure to utilize and optimize a significant portion of their technical workforce, and in doing so, hurts their own chances at long-term success. In that spirit, we first offer several recommendations to organizations and institutions that hire and retain women engineers. These recommendations are meant to be directional and not prescriptive and are designed to spark discussion, action, and reform.
First, we believe that efforts to retain and advance women engineers in technical workplaces cannot just be half-hearted, add-on programs, meant to superficially
address some perceived inequity. Our data highlight that the type of changes that will make a difference need to start at the top. Specifically—
- We call upon corporate leaders and managers at every level to invest in women engineers’ careers in the same way they invest in their male engineers’ careers – through systematic training and professional development activities that build and enhance skills and genuinely sponsor them for greater operational, strategic, and leadership roles.
- We believe that even if change efforts start at the top, they need to be accompanied by system-wide changes that place gender equity in central focus in every aspect of its talent management process, from allocating choice assignments, to performance monitoring and reward systems.
- Our data reveal that changes need not always be transformational and structural in nature. Micro-level changes that eliminate role related stresses, such as defining and clarifying how, when, and what needs to be done, can help women engineers be more effective in accomplishing their work goals. Similarly, by reducing or eliminating conflicting work role demands, expectations, excessive workload, and disruptions, women engineers can more fully contribute toward their organization’s mission.
Our second set of recommendations calls upon the committed, senior leadership to consider not only breaking down structural and systemic barriers that are holding women engineers back and driving them out, but also dismantling some invisible barriers that are powerfully entrenched in a chilly workplace climate that underlies corporate decision-making. The climate issues that women engineers confronted were definitely not invisible or unintentional. In fact, these represented deliberate actions and behaviors that undermined women engineers’ efforts to succeed at work. We suggest that leaders and managers at every level address climate issues by:
- Instituting zero-tolerance for incivility and undermining behaviors and creating a culture of respect for all facets of employees’ lives.
- Initiating organizational support programs that enable all employees to better manage their work and nonwork demands. Structural changes, such as introducing “flextime,” are inadequate and just skim the surface at best, and at worst, penalize the very employees they are meant to assist by reducing their advancement and developmental opportunities. In essence, mere introduction of “family friendly programs” without commensurate changes in workplace climate may do little to address the invisible but powerful gender inequity beliefs held by many managers that may subtly, and unintentionally, hamper women engineers’ careers. To adequately address this, many of the nation’s top workplaces have moved away from norms that emphasize “face-time” with its accompanying culture of excessive work hours to ones that stress “performance.”
All this requires serious and sustained commitment and engagement not just from senior leaders and middle managers, but from all employees, including women, from all levels and ranks.
Implications and Recommendations for Policymakers
The results from our research have ramifications that go well beyond organizational and institutional boundaries; they have undeniable implications for policymakers as well. We believe that fully engaging and leveraging the talents of women engineers should be an integral part of our nation’s strategy to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors. In the words of First Lady Michelle Obama, “If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math” (9/26/11). Clearly, a vibrant and innovative scientific community can thrive only when it draws from all segments of the technically skilled workforce.
The foundation for economic prosperity and national security is innovation, particularly in STEM fields, and the key driver of innovation in STEM fields includes full engagement of women. Therefore, retaining the talents of highly skilled women engineers is not only a necessary step toward fulfilling President Obama’s mandate for increasing our nation’s competitive advantage, but it is also vital for our nation’s economic prosperity and national security. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Commerce (2011), STEM careers offer higher earnings potential and job stability than non-STEM careers with women in STEM jobs earning 33 percent more than their counterparts in non-STEM occupations. However, a 14 percent gender wage-gap persists in STEM occupations (compared to 21 percent wage gap for non-STEM fields). This is in part due to outdated gender stereotypes along with archaic organizational models of career success that defines advancement as a linear climb to the top with few options to maximize a career-life fit.
Increasing opportunities for women to enter and succeed in STEM fields is an important step toward realizing greater economic prosperity for themselves and the nation as a whole. Policymakers have a vital role to play in crafting initiatives that strengthen the “all-hands on deck” approach advocated by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and “clearing the hurdles” that prevent the full utilization of women STEM professional’s human capital. One recent example, such as the 2011 NSf-Career-Life Balance Initiative promises to provide greater work-related flexibil-
ity to women and men in STEM research careers, and is a step in the right direction. By providing gender-neutral and family friendly policies and practices, this initiative could help employers such as colleges, universities, and research institutions to improve the placement, advancement, and retention of their women scientists and engineers.
Other initiatives could help improve STEM workplaces to promote gender equality and retention in addition to offering programs that enable re-entry and re-training for women STEM professionals. Policymakers could also strengthen the funding agencies by encouraging proposals that assess the effectiveness of various initiatives/policies designed to increase representation and promote retention of girls and women in STEM fields. Another way that policymakers can utilize the insights and information from our study to have an impact is by adopting some of the best workplace practices within the agencies they manage. For example, federal agencies can lead the way in becoming model workplaces that establish systems and practices that provide technical and professional developmental opportunities and an inclusive and equitable climate that enables all their employees to flourish and fulfill non-work obligations while pursuing a highly engaging career.
For over four decades, investment of significant sums of federal money has helped increase representation of girls and women in STEM fields and careers. all the well-intentioned policies and monetary investment comes to naught if the organizations that employee women scientists and engineers don’t retain a significant portion of their highly talented workforce. If technical workplaces continue to be unappealing because of their outmoded cultures modeled after one pattern of career achievement and engagement, then not only female STEM professionals will be turned away to work for them, they will lose out on all talented individuals that seek an inclusive work climate with multiple career options and paths that allows for a fulfilling work life.
Implications and Recommendations for Professional Societies
Our recommendations to professional societies of engineering are likewise directional and not perspective. Professional associations and societies of engineering have a pivotal role to play in the retention, engagement, and advancement of women engineers in technical careers. In particular, the leadership at professional societies of engineering not only advocates on behalf of all its members, but more importantly, it carries with it the power to represent the voices of the women who are not at the table, and potentially changing the narrative to be more inclusive and equitable. Many of the leaders of professional engineering societies are uniquely positioned within an influential network of educators, university administrators, policymakers, corporate decision-makers, and funding agencies (to name a few). As such, they have the power to initiate, coordinate, and champion concrete efforts, across multiple platforms, that lead toward greater equity, inclusion, and representation of women in technical disciplines. Toward that end, we offer the following suggestions for consideration by the leadership of engineering societies:
- to empower women engineers to succeed and advance within technical disciplines by providing opportunities for leadership, skill building, and professional development
- to consistently advocate for gender equity across all stages of the talent pipeline within their home institutions (e.g., recruitment, performance monitoring, reward allocation, career development, and advancement) thereby modeling some of the best management practices.
- to increase gender representation in areas that serve as conduits for professional development and leadership roles such as administrative boards, editorial boards, committees, grant review panels, and conference programs. We add a cautionary note to avoid “tokenism” in any of these efforts.
- to champion for inclusion and representation of women’s and URM’s voices in STEM related public policies and legislative initiatives.
- to nominate high-achieving women and URM as Fellows within their professional engineering associations.
- create fellowship programs for women and URM and offer opportunities for formal and informal mentoring within the academies (e.g., developmental workshops)
- to partner and establish collaborative relationships with other national associations that specifically represent women and URM in STEM (e.g., AWIS, WEPAN, SWE, AAWIT, NCWIT)
- to actively promote women’s and URM’s career success and engagement in STEM by dismantling a variety of cognitive, cultural, systemic, and institutional barriers that marginalize these groups’ contributions and increase their professional isolation.
Over three thousand women engineers from across the nation, representing a wide range of industries and engineering disciplines, participated in our groundbreaking research that captured and documented their experiences in the workplace. The results of our study have helped surface and give voice to the collective experiences that shape their decisions to stay in, or leave, engineering. The workplace represents the terminal destination of a long pipeline of technical education, full of twists and turns, through which many women have travelled, investing and sacrificing much along the way. To lose these human and monetary capital investments is to jeopardize our nation’s long term economic
prosperity, national security, and technical leadership in the world. So change we must. The workplaces also represent the start of another pipeline, one that fuels and protects our nation in every which way. The results from our study highlight some possible intervention points and offer data-driven suggestions to effect change, both incremental, and transformational, so as to actively develop, promote, and capitalize on the different skills and perspectives of women and under-represented minority professionals within STEM.
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