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Engineering Employment Characteristics (1985)

Chapter: Appendix B: Women in Engineering

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Women in Engineering." National Research Council. 1985. Engineering Employment Characteristics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/584.
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Page 56
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Women in Engineering." National Research Council. 1985. Engineering Employment Characteristics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/584.
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Page 57
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Women in Engineering." National Research Council. 1985. Engineering Employment Characteristics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/584.
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Page 58

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APPENDIX B Women in Engineering Helen Gouldner The decade of the seventies was witness to a remarkable influx of women into the engineering profession. ~ The proportion of women of the total earning bachelor's degrees in engineering grew from 0.83 per- cent in 1970 to 9.70 percent in 1980. A contrast of the raw numbers at the beginning or the end of this period highlights the extent of this evidence: there were only 358 women graduated in 1970, compared with 5,631 in 1980. The upward trend continued with the graduation of 6,357 women in 1980 and 8,140 in 1982. This meant that women were awarded 12.15 percent of the total number of bachelor's degrees in engineering in 1982, compared with 1.19 percent a decade earlier. However, according to the statistics gathered by the Engineering Manpower Commission, there may be a leveling off of the entrance of women into engineering programs. Although the enrollment of fresh- man women had increased 14 percent during the year 1981, it dropped to as percent increase in 1982. Since this constituted a much lower rate than the increase in upper-class enrollment of women in engineering majors, it is difficult to assess the reasons for the decline. With the demand for women engineers remaining high and the starting salaries for engineering graduates outpacing other fields, the freshman enroll- ment dip may be only a temporary blip on the charts. It was estimated by the National Science Foundation that the total Helen Gouldner is a member of the Pane] on Engineering Employment Characteris- tics. This appendix was prepared in April 1984. 56

APPENDIX B 57 number of engineers in the United States was 1,387,000 in 1980. Of the 34,850 women in this population, 32,600 are employed as engineers mainly in business and industry t76.4 percent), with the greatest con- centration in civil engineering ~ 12 percent).2 Women are also employed in the specialties of chemical; 1 1.0 percent), electrical/electronic; 1 1.7 percent), and mechanical {11.7 percentJ engineering. As compared with men, the highest proportion of women is in the field of chemical engineering {5 percents, or 3,600 out of a total of 72,400 chemical engineers in the work force. The Society of Women Engineers (SWEJ was founded in 1950 by women engineers to inform the public about the achievement of women engineers and to encourage young women to choose engineer- ing as a profession. In 1961 SWE established a center for information on women in engineering. In cooperation with other engineering associa- tions, it played a role in disseminating information about careers in engineering and supported promising women with scholarships. The SWE tried to combat a number of mistaken ideas about the field of engineering that might discourage women from entering an engi- neering career.3 A number of widely held beliefs about engineering, the society pointed out, are myths and outdated stereotypes. Among these notions about engineering that may deter women from selecting engi- neering as a field of study are the following: · That engineers work mainly with things rather than people. Untrue. · That girls play less with mechanical toys and engines in childhood and adolescence than boys. True. · That those early interests and hobbies are related to success in engineering. Untrue. · That engineering students must sacrifice their social life at college to the demands of their course work. Untrue. Once women enter engineering careers, what are their prospects for advancement? Asked this question, a president of SWE who is a leading instrumentation engineer drew on her experience in industry since her graduation as a mechanical engineer in 1950. She was asked if women engineers face different problems in the 1980s than in the 1960s. Her response was: I don't see much difference between 1960 and 1980, although the growing number of women will enhance the possibilities for women making it.... I think there will still be the struggle to get into senior management, but more women will be given the chance to try.... It will probably take about ten years for senior management to reflect the number of women now in engineering. . . .

58 APPENDIX B Today it is still difficult for women to move up in engineering in many organiza- tions. But with the increase in their numbers, more women should get into middle and upper management. The growing number of women engineers will also act as role models providing incentive and motivation to young female engineers.4 Notes 1. United States Department of Education. Engineering Manpower Commission Sur- veys, 1967-1982. 2. National Science Foundation. U.S. Scientists and Engineers, 1980 "Washington, D.C., 1982~. 3. Engineers' Council for Professional Development. "Engineering-A Goal for Women." EC-923), August 1979. 4. Ann Seets-Petrack. " Straight Talk. " Interview with Ada Pressman. Graduating Engi- neer, Spring 1980, pp. 23-26.

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