Why arent there more female engineers? (Thinkstock)
Why arent there more female engineers?
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In U.S. universities, women make up just 12 percent of engineering professors. Likewise, just 11 percent of working engineers are female. Yet women represent 20 percent of the engineering degrees awarded each year, as the Washington Post points out.

Researchers have long questioned what fuels this divide, citing everything from women's greater likelihood to become full-time parents to women's supposed tendency to be less aggressive in pursuing opportunities. Neither of those things, it turns out, actually explains the problem. Instead, a chilly workplace environment seems to be the main factor that pushes women out of engineering careers.

In a new study, researchers surveyed more than 5,000 female graduates who earned engineering degrees from top universities over the past 60 years. Forty percent of the respondents, the Post reports, had either left the engineering field or never used their degree professionally. Women most frequently cited "uncivil workplace climates," including "the expectation to put in long hours of face time in the office, and the perception that there was little opportunity to advance," as the main motivation behind their decision to leave engineering.

Supervisor support, according to the Post, was often lacking, and the respondents said they frequently suffered from condescending comments and gossip at the hands of male colleagues. Many jobs and labs also did not make provisions for having a family, forcing women to choose between their careers or families, researchers add. Other women said they did not like the fact that they were the only female employee or student in their workplace or lab.

Research underscores the importance of mentoring. From their analysis, the researchers found that women who did stick with engineering and went on to enjoy a successful career often said they had a supportive supervisor when they were just getting started. That means that, to begin to close the gender divide in engineering, system-wide change needs to be implemented from the top down, the researchers told the Washington Post. And that first requires acknowledging that "this is not a womans issue,'" one research told the paper. It's "about creating a good work environment."

Critical thinking challenge: How did researchers answer this question: Why aren't there more female engineers?

Assigned 30 times


COMMENTS (40)
  • Wl81800darkgray
    1/23/2015 - 08:40 a.m.

    The probably should be more female engineers. I think that not that many woman want to be engineers because not that many of them like getting their hands dirty or handling the heavy parts.

  • 3MatthewC
    1/23/2015 - 10:34 a.m.

    I believe there should be a lot more women engineers. I am a firm believer that girls can to everything boys can, so why not be and engineer? People can be whatever they want, so why are girls portrayed as people who want to play with barbie dolls and get dressed up in dresses? Why can't they play with toy cars and the other way around too.

  • MikaylaStazewski-Ste
    1/23/2015 - 11:39 a.m.

    There are not as many female engineers because I feel that engineering is looked at as more of a masculine task. It uses more labor, which usually women do not voluntarily do.

  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    1/23/2015 - 01:18 p.m.

    Thats really weird that there aren't as many female engineers. I know that i definitely wouldn't want to because i'm not good at math. I hate math.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    1/23/2015 - 01:20 p.m.

    I find it interesting that females do not get more involved with this field. Not only is is a cool field, but it also pays well. I already have my major chose, but I'll keep this in mind.

  • AlexisKrise
    1/23/2015 - 01:39 p.m.

    If females think of their climate so much as to let it affect their work, then maybe they shouldn't even bother. If you are going to let something as small as 'it's cold' force you out of your chosen career, then you shouldn't be there. You're cold? Put on a sweater instead of a tank-top! It's honestly not that hard. I'm a female, but I know how to dress sensibly, and don't let the fact of 'it's cold' chose my career path for me.

  • Haley Patterson
    1/23/2015 - 01:49 p.m.

    I think if women want to be engineers, then they shouldn't be complaining about how cold the workplace is. If I were to get a degree in engineering then I would definitely be doing something that would involve my skill.

  • CharismaM
    1/23/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    I think there should be more woman engineers. They shouldn't have to choose between work and family. They also shouldn't feel uncomfortable because they are the only women in their workplace. The same thing goes for any other job.

  • ratiaira
    1/23/2015 - 01:55 p.m.

    honestly, i think that there are not that many female engineers because now of days girls are not interested in engineering i am shocked if i ever see a female engineer it is rare

  • NaphtaliD-Tho
    1/23/2015 - 02:52 p.m.

    Critical Thinking Challenge:"Why aren't there more female engineers?"

    I think there is not a lot of female engineers because most female do not want to be engineer. They rather choose another career like nurse.

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