PROMOTING SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING CAREERS IN INDUSTRY
Esther M. Conwell
Esther Conwell is a Research Fellow at the Xerox Research Laboratories in Webster, NY, where she currently works on electronic properties of conducting polymers and other topics in condensed matter physics. She is also an adjunct professor in the Chemistry Department at the University of Rochester and an Associate Director of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Photoinduced Charge Transfer located at the University.
After earning a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago, she taught for some years at Brooklyn College. Most of her career since then has been in industrial laboratories, first GTE Labs and then Xerox. Dr. Conwell has a large number of publications in various fields of condensed matter physics and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. After a number of years on the advisory board of the Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel (OSEP), she was appointed to the National Research Council's Committee on Women in Science and Engineering.
Women comprise approximately 16 percent of the scientists and engineers employed in industry, 28 percent of the scientists and 4 percent of the engineers (Figure 7-1). At present, more women hold bachelor's degrees than advanced degrees in science and engineering. While both men and women scientists and engineers are more likely to be found in the life sciences, their distribution across other disciplines varies significantly, with women being concentrated in psychology and the social sciences and men more often found in engineering and the physical sciences (Figure 7-2). Women scientists and engineers are more likely to be unemployed (Figure 7-3) and underutilized than their male counterparts. Once employed, women in industry face both lower salaries than their male peers (Figure 7-4) and invisible barriers—the ''glass ceiling" and the "glass wall"—to vertical and
assessments. Such assessment systems may include identification of such individuals as "high potentials" and include forms of internal development (including rotational assignments, mentoring and training), external development (including graduate studies, executive development programs), international assignments, and highly visible positions (such as special assistants to senior executives, and assignments to corporate task forces and committees). These serve as available means to give key contributors experiences to enhance their academic and work-related credentials.
While these practices generally benefit the corporate employee, they can serve to impede the advancement of qualified minorities and women if they are not inclusive of all human talent.
The challenges of increasing competition and declining numbers in the traditional white male pool, however, are beginning to force corporations to recruit, retain, and develop the talents of women at every level. This is true for positions in science and engineering as well as management positions. Some companies have developed good programs for recruiting and retaining women scientists and engineers. Since less is known about this type of intervention than programs in academe, for example, we begin this chapter with a description of a few of these programs. Successful corporate models appear to have certain characteristics in common:
high-level support, up to and including the CEO level,
mentoring programs that are institutionalized and continuing,
grass roots efforts, such as internal women's self-help or networking groups,
an open corporate culture that permits such job options as flex time, part-time, job sharing, and work at home,
institutionalized efforts to create gender sensitivity in the workplace, such as training programs on "diversity" and gender-related issues, and incentives and accountability for managers on these issues, and
continuing program evaluations in terms of keeping data on recruitment and retention rates and attitudes of women toward their work.
The 1991 CWSE-sponsored conference on S&E interventions showcased programs in three large manufacturing companies—Hughes Aircraft Company (a subsidiary of General Motors), Corning, and Xerox—to illustrate what, by current standards, are programs well designed to recruit and ensure the professional progress of women in the companies. In the cases of Corning and Xerox, a sizable part of the programs described focused on corporate research and development (R&D).
Underlying the programs for women in these three companies is an assumption at the top levels of management that (1) the upcoming changes in the composition of the work force mean that, to be competitive in the future, technical companies will need more women scientists and engineers and (2) to get maximum productivity they must remove obstacles that limit women's performance. Thus, the major justification presented for special programs to recruit and retain women scientists and engineers in these companies is the bottom line, the future profitability of the company. In line with this, the corporate slogans have changed from ''affirmative action" to "work force diversity."
Hughes Aircraft Company
This company believes women "to be one of the most successful resources to address some of the projected shortfalls in engineering and scientific personnel" (Frownfelter, 1991). Nevertheless, retention of women employees is an important problem for Hughes, even though the company has been actively recruiting, encouraging career advancement, and promoting women in scientific and engineering disciplines for more than 30 years
(Frownfelter, 1991). The company has recently improved recruitment rates by using three basic approaches to the problem:
increasing external visibility of career opportunities within the company for women engineers and scientists,
increasing interaction with other companies and other industries, and
increasing the company's visibility in the community and proactive women's organizations.
In general, the company has found it more effective to aim its efforts at work groups and their interrelationships rather than at individuals (Frownfelter, 1991).
Currently, there are 3,100 women in scientific and engineering endeavors at Hughes, representing 15 percent of the technical work force. The total Hughes work force, not including subsidiaries, is about 49,000, of which 17,000 are women. Some 10 percent of the technical management and about 5 percent of the executive management are women. According to Frownfelter (1991), in 1992 the company will probably hire between 2000 and 3000 professionals (while simultaneously downsizing by a comparable number to accomplish a shift of emphasis from defense to commercial electronics work). The company's goal is to have women comprise 50 percent of new hires. Hughes measures the success of its programs "by periodically monitoring the number of its women employees."
Among measures Hughes has taken to attract and retain women is development of role models and mentoring. The company considers role models of great importance for motivating women and showing them what their possibilities can be. If there are no visible role models, management creates them by promoting from within or bringing in women at a high level from outside. Support groups committed to counseling and team problem solving also play a mentoring role. Training of managers is also given high importance. All managers are required to take 16 hours of training a year in work force diversity management, including mentoring training.
There are three active, formal technical women's groups at Hughes. The groups were started by individual women employees whose grassroots efforts received official company recognition after the groups had been in existence for about two years. One of the groups, the Intergroup Women's Forum, is a cross-organizational group developed to provide both techno
logical and personal communication and visibility throughout the company. A second group with similar aims includes women in spacecraft and communications technology. The third group is affiliated with the Society of Women Engineers. The groups are very much involved in the development of career counseling and act as a mentoring network. The groups are allocated work time to meet once a month, but meet more often on their own time. Agendas include technical work problems, but also child care and carpooling arrangements.
Even though women are still underrepresented in the Hughes work force, the company believes it has established a good base on which to build.
Corning has a long-standing commitment to achieving diversity in its work force, including specific targets for improvement in numbers of women in its exempt ranks (Menger, 1991). As do many companies, Corning carries out "climate surveys" of employee attitudes every two years, and managers receive the results in averaged formats to retain confidentiality. In 1987 the company survey indicated considerably lower job satisfaction among women than men, particularly for women in the Research, Development, and Engineering (RD&E) division of the company. At the same time, the attrition rate for women in the corporation was 15 percent, or three times that for men, a rate representing considerable expense to the company (Figure 7-5). In an effort to address these problems, the company formed a Corrective Action Team (CAT), made up of both men and women. The group met weekly and ultimately recommended a number of actions intended to improve the working climate for women. Among the programs that were established as a result of the CAT recommendations are:
the Corning Professional Women's Forum, which meets regularly and provides an important network for women employees (the Forum also brings in speakers and publishes a newsletter containing information of particular interest to women employees),
targets for increasing the number of women in higher level jobs,
Parent Resource and Referral Center to provide quality child-care services for all employees and others in the community (the service was established jointly with the school board and other community organizations),
confidential counseling for women, provided by an outside consultant, with general issues reported back to management for review and possible action,
a new career planning and management system that enables all individuals to exercise more control over their own careers,
a formalized coaching (mentoring) program primarily for women and minorities to enhance their integration into the corporate culture,
part-time and flex-time work policies for salaried employees, and
a required workshop for all RD&E employees that addresses gender-related issues in the workplace.
The Corning workshop has three objectives: (1) to increase awareness and sharpen sensitivity to women's problems in all their subtle variations, (2) to legitimize communications on these subjects, and (3) to help the Technology Group better understand issues of concern to women employees. The basis for the workshop is a video presentation that begins with a message from the vice chairman of Corning pointing out not the ethics of equal treatment of the sexes but, rather, the pragmatic purpose—that is, the company must create an environment where everyone can contribute to his or her maximum capability. The remaining portion of the video, featuring professional actors, illustrates some negative experiences of women in RD&E and forms the basis for discussion in the workshops. Everyone in the RD&E organization attended a workshop session in the First quarter of 1990. People who had made insensitive remarks thus found themselves sitting in the workshops, surrounded by colleagues, as the remarks were re-enacted on film and then discussed by co-workers. A follow-up study, eight months later, indicated that the video and ensuing discussions were helpful in modifying attitudes (Menger, 1991). Another video/workshop entitled ''Valuing Diversity" has been prepared and will be taken by all professionals in the company during 1992.
The coaching or mentoring program has been in existence since 1988 at Corning. Coaches are volunteers—in general, experienced employees from another department. Each pair of coach and coachee is given a one-day preliminary orientation by Human Resources personnel, and coordinators meet individually and collectively with the pairs during early stages of the program. An outside consultant was also available during the first year of the program to help the coaches cope with new problems they may not have had to face previously. The pairs meet on a regular basis to discuss work-related issues. The enthusiasm of the first pairs in the program led to extension of the program to other parts of the corporation.
Approximately 40 percent of Corning employees have requested flex-time. As a result,
The company plans to start "flexibility training" to help managers administer flexible scheduling fairly, and stresses flexibility in career planning as well. Instead of routinely promoting people who follow a traditional career path, including certain transfers and promotions, the focus is on matching an employee's skills, interests and ability to learn with the demands of the job (Shellenbarger, 1992).
At the R&D headquarters, flex-time is granted to all professionals, although all employees are expected to be at the site from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. In addition,
A 17-member Corning task force, ranging from vice presidents to engineers, has been looking for ways to help women advance. One idea: Make part-time work and other family policies explicitly available for reasons that have nothing to do with motherhood, such as a need to spend time with an ailing parent. "Work-family [conflict] must be an employee issue, not just a women's issue," says Marie McKee, Corning's vice president, strategic staffing. (Shellenbarger, 1992)
Part-time jobs are arranged by negotiation between employee and manager. Allowing for part-time work in this time of rapid development of science and technology may be key to attracting and retaining women in the technical ranks. Of those who have opted for part-time positions for personal reasons, more than two-thirds are women (Menger, 1991).
Corning addresses the "glass ceiling" through three mechanisms: (1) early identification of high-potential women and minorities, (2) assignment of responsibility to supervisors for providing job opportunities to identified employees within a specified time (job-switching between divisions, for example, is encouraged), and (3) through detailed annual performance appraisals requiring supervisors to prepare adequately for career development discussions with the employee during the appraisal (Solomon, 1990). By 1991 the attrition rate of women at Corning had decreased by more than a factor of 3, down to less than 5 percent, and is now close to the attrition rate for men.
Xerox is well known for its successful recruitment of blacks in the 1970s and 1980s. This was accomplished by a combination of strong commitment on the part of top management, including setting goals for minority hiring and promotion and establishing minority self-help groups (Graham, 1991). Xerox's Vice-President for Research has recently announced his intention to make Xerox research laboratories the "employer of choice" for technical women. To that end, in 1990, the vice president established a
Women's Council, consisting of six women (two from each of the three Xerox laboratories) to advise him. One of the major goals is to increase the number of women in the laboratories; only 19 percent of the company's research lab employees are female, although the overall Xerox work force is 32.3 percent female. Subsequently, the Vice-President for Research has announced that 50 percent of all new professional hires in the Research Labs should be women.
Company-wide, Xerox has developed a "Balanced Work Force Strategy," a system of calculated numerical targets for all employee groups in all job categories, levels, functional areas and operating units. All group managers are held accountable for achieving balance in their organizations. Balanced Work Force Goals are generated using internal as well as external labor data. Qualified employees are identified, developed and promoted, and operating groups are assessed regularly on the basis of their performance (Catalyst, 1991a).
Furthermore, Xerox managers are urged to "stress results rather than time spent in the office [and] to work with employees as individuals" (Shellenbarger, 1992). According to Patricia Nazemetz, director of benefits at Xerox Corporation,
We don't assume someone has to put in a 60-hour workweek just because a predecessor took 60 hours to do the job.... Managers have to be sensitive to the fact that everyone has a different personal agenda. If a person says, "I can do the job, but I want to do it in four days or by spending part of my time at home," we encourage them to listen to that, and not say, "I have to treat you exactly like I treat Harry. Harry's here 80 hours and you should be here 80 hours too." (Shellenbarger, 1992)
This policy has been beneficial to both female and male employees, but has particular relevance to women, who in general continue to bear most family-related responsibilities in U.S. society.
As a result of the implementation of these policies, the number of women in management at Xerox has increased dramatically during the past years. Among the company's 250 top management positions, 30 are held by women; this contrasts with only 2 women in those positions in 1988 (Shellenbarger, 1992).
Other Corporate Initiatives
According to its 1990 report, Equal Opportunity at Bristol-Myers Squibb Company,
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company believes its commitment to Equal Employment Opportunity is more than a legal and moral necessity: Realizing the potential of every individual is also sound business.
With that premise, the company has developed several programs for recruiting and retaining women and minorities. Recruitment programs include summer internships for outstanding women and minority undergraduate students; engineering co-op programs to give mechanical and industrial engineering students experience in biomedical, research, industrial, and development engineering; scholarships for women and minorities in engineering, science, and computer science; and participation in meetings of professional organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers, Student National Pharmaceutical Association, Society of Women Engineers, and American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
Retention of its highly qualified S&E work force is also important to Bristol-Myers Squibb, and its divisions offer various programs to foster "upward mobility for its minority and women employees." Four of these initiatives are considered especially significant in the company's ability to have a high retention rate for its scientists and engineers:
training for company managers: Sensitizing managers in all Bristol-Myers Squibb U.S. divisions to affirmative action and equal opportunity requirements is directed by the Corporate Equal Opportunity Affairs Department, whose regular evaluations include formal reviews with division presidents.
tuition aid: Programs are in place to assist minority and women employees in obtaining advanced degrees in order to rise within the corporate structure.
career development: The company encourages women to seek non-traditional jobs, to strengthen their managerial skills, and to prepare for advancement opportunities. Courses, conferences, and seminars for employees are conducted by the company's Career Development Center and by Squibb College, part of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Group.
child-care assistance: The company's U.S. divisions support a variety of day-care programs, such as a referral source that matches parents with appropriate child-care services, subsidized child care at local facilities, and the Family Sensitive Work Environment Task Force established by Clairol, a Bristol-Myers Squibb subsidiary, in 1990 "to address opportunities for job-sharing, part-time employment, day care, and flextime."
Among Bristol-Myers Squibb's corporate goals are (1) to seek out minority group members, women, and individuals with disabilities (including Vietnam-era veterans), encouraging them to apply for employment; (2) to ensure that people are considered for employment, training, and promotion solely on the basis of their abilities and potential to perform a job; and (3) to establish the company as a community leader, not only by observing the letter of the law, but also by supporting its spirit and intent. As a result, minorities currently represent 12.4 percent of professional and managerial employees in Bristol-Myers Squibb's U.S. work force, and women represent 33.7 percent—percentages higher than the national averages of 10 and 16 percent, respectively.
Another company taking steps to retain its technical work force is the General Motors Corporation. By means of General Motors Fellowships, the company promotes employee development and retention of talent by offering continuing educational opportunities. Employees pursuing graduate degrees in all engineering disciplines are eligible to apply for these fellowships. The program has been regularly evaluated since its inception in 1978 and, according to program staff, has been shown to be effective in the development and retention of engineering candidates, including women.
Like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Corning, Lotus Development, and other larger companies, Monsanto has instituted sensitivity training as a means for increasing its retention of women and minority employees:
Monsanto employees take courses that involve lengthy discussion, for a day or so at a time, of their own attitudes to sex and race. By making people articulate their feelings, subconscious bias is brought into the open and—the firm hopes—will be reduced (The Economist , 1992).
Other companies taking steps to recruit and retain their women scientists and engineers are regularly assisted and recognized by Catalyst, a New York-based firm whose literature emphasizes its activities "to help senior managers and human resource professionals recruit, develop, and retain management women at every level." Among those corporations honored for their achievements in this area are the following:
Hewlett-Packed: Its annual Technical Women's Conference focuses on "the achievements of women,... communication among women,... their awareness of cross-functional opportunities, and ... [the importance of] role models and mentors" (Catalyst, 1992a). According to Hewlett-Packard's president and CEO, John A. Young, the company "expects the Technical Women's Conference will result in improved recruitment and retention of experienced technical women."
SC Johnson Wax: Among the several programs "designed to attract and retain the best and the brightest [and] to help ensure that qualified women receive adequate promotional consideration" are internal promotion policies, ongoing training and development, mentoring programs, and tuition reimbursement for graduate studies (Catalyst, 1991b).
Tenneco Inc: Led by CEO James L. Ketelsen, Tenneco has implemented "an integrated approach that both encourages the recruitment and promotion of women and provides the support network of benefits that help women achieve their own potential" (Catalyst, 1991b). Like many other companies during the past five years, Tenneco has established a Women's Advisory Council, a Work/Family Support Program, and executive incentive program whereby managers' bonuses are based, in part, on the degree to which they achieve Tenneco's goals "for advancing women and minorities."
A recent (1992b) Catalyst study of women engineers employed in industry highlights initiatives at 28 companies. Among those programs are the Management Intern Program of Consolidated Edison, designed "to develop its future managers," and General Electric's child-care referral system, part-time work policy, and unpaid parental leave. In both 1987 and 1990, Catalyst
(1988, 1991b) highlighted the programs of several companies to assist employees in balancing their work and family obligations:
Eastman Kodak Company
Work and Family Programs
John Hancock Financial services
Innovative Family Care Initiatives
US Sprint Communications Company
An Integrated Approach to Managing Career and Family
Elder Care Referral Service, National Child Care Referral Service
Evaluation of Interventions
Conference participants considered the characteristics listed on page 124 to be features of good programs. It emerged very clearly in the Irvine conference discussions that the treatment of women at Hughes, Corning, and Xerox—and the measures these companies have taken to recruit and retain women—may not be typical in industry, not even in large companies. It was suggested that both the best and the worst programs for women are found in industry, with academe and government programs somewhere in between. A particular point was made that even if a company has a part-time employment option, it may be ''political suicide" for individual women to choose this option.
Evaluation of any intervention requires keeping statistics on the numbers of women in the various ranks, categorized according to length of service, productivity, salary, etc. Attitude surveys are also useful, as suggested in the information given above. Corning has been particularly forthcoming in supplying information on its initiatives in this area; it is not to be expected that many other companies would match this.
Interventions to recruit and retain women scientists and engineers in
industry are being implemented in small numbers throughout the country. However, to achieve a level of women's participation in industrial employment comparable to that in the academic and government sectors requires a more directed program of strategic and sustained efforts developed jointly by women scientists and engineers and the companies for which they work. Specifically, four suggestions are offered to guide future direction of such programs:
1 Women should be given incentives to seek employment in industry.
It is likely that a major reason for their low rate of employment in industry is that women have tended rather to look for jobs in academe. This is no doubt dictated by the greater familiarity with the academic environment and the more obvious flexibility in hours and working conditions, desirable for raising a family. The corporate examples of this chapter show that there are industrial employers who allow considerable flexibility and emphasize equitable treatment with respect to pay, promotion, and access to these flexible arrangements. According to anecdotal evidence, still greater flexibility can be found, particularly in jobs where there is not daily pressure for production. There have certainly been instances of paid and unpaid leaves of many months' duration with the same job guaranteed on return. Such arrangements are more likely, of course, for valued employees.
Still another incentive is the personal involvement of chief executive officers (CEOs) in the development of recruitment and retention interventions. Such involvement communicates a "corporate commitment" to increasing the employment of women and minorities. The 1991 Department of Labor study found that:
With the strong support of the CEO and other corporate officers, [one large defense contractor] has determined to aggressively recruit minorities and women through external recruitment efforts, including executive searches; make "deputy" assignments, when possible, using these positions as training grounds for developing minorities and women as "high potential" managers; encourage executive mentoring and sponsoring high potential or high performing minority or female managers and professionals; increase executive accountability and responsibility for cultural changes at every level through a creative incentive compensation plan.
Another company, again with the CEO's personal involvement, has developed monitoring programs to measure the corporation's personnel development, retention and advancement efforts. As a long-term goal, the company is committed to minority and female participation in officer ranks in the same proportion as their participation in lower management ranks. To meet this goal, assignments, educational opportunities, and evaluations are carefully monitored throughout management. High potential minorities and women are identified early in their careers and tracked to assure they are given the same opportunities for development as their peers.
2 Women should band together in self-help groups within their companies.
It emerged from the discussion that one of the two essential ingredients of a successful intervention is self-help. (It is not possible to specify a procedure for obtaining the other essential ingredient—top corporate support—but in at least one of the examples cited, its achievement was preceded by, and at least partly due to, establishment of a self-help group.) Models of self-help groups are provided by the black caucuses that operate at Xerox and AT&T Bell Labs. At Xerox, the group maintained close contacts across organizational boundaries, agreed not to compete with each other, and ignored status hierarchies in their efforts to help each other. They held developmental workshops on evenings and weekends and coached each other (Graham, 1991). These efforts not only improved skills and performance levels throughout the group, but helped to overcome some of the built-in organizational barriers to learning that affect people of all kinds in large organizations. Female professional groups could, in addition, be involved in corporate discussions of family benefit options and solutions to dependent-care problems.
3 Companies should allow maximum flexibility in working conditions and benefits consistent with getting the job done well.
Although greater flexibility may entail some complications and additional expense, particularly in the case of professional employees, it should more than pay for itself in productivity and company loyalty. Flexibility in
benefits, the "cafeteria style" now available at some companies, would also be valuable.
4 To increase the number of women gaining industrial employment in science and engineering, companies should expand the universe from which they recruit entry-level employees.
Although research indicates that women's colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are highly successful in graduating women with undergraduate degrees in the sciences (U.S. Congress, 1988), onsite recruitment by industry on the campuses of these institutions, particularly women's colleges, is limited. In addition, it has been reported that some major companies limit their recruitment efforts to a few departments at a few universities. As the need to tap the broader S&E talent pool intensifies, companies should undertake steps to diversify their work forces by engaging in recruitment at a variety of higher education institutions.
The measures recommended may have only marginal effects toward increasing the number of positions filled by women in the present state of the economy (summer 1992). However, these measures can make the technical environment a more hospitable workplace for women and enhance both recruitment and retention rates. And, finally, improvements in the work environment for women are very likely to lead to improvements for men also.
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