Why arent there more female engineers?
In U.S. universities, just 12 percent of engineering professors are women. Only 11 percent of engineers are female. Yet according to the Washington Post, women receive 20 percent of the engineering degrees awarded yearly.
Researchers have long wondered about this divide. They cite, for example, women's greater likelihood of becoming full-time parents. Some speculate that women tend to be less aggressive in pursuing opportunities. As it turns out, neither explains the problem. Instead, a chilly workplace environment seems to be the main reason women leave engineering careers.
In a new study, researchers surveyed more than 5,000 women. These women earned engineering degrees over the past 60 years. The Post reports that forty percent had either left engineering or never used their degree professionally. Women most frequently cited "uncivil workplace climates," as the main reason they left engineering. Examples included "the expectation to put in long hours of face time in the office, and the perception that there was little opportunity to advance."
Supervisor support, according to the Post, was often lacking. Additionally, women engineers complained about male coworkers. Men's comments and gossip suggested that women were not as smart as men. Many jobs and labs did not provide for workers with families. Women had to choose between careers and families. Other women disliked being the only female employee in their workplace.
Research shows that mentoring is important. Researchers interviewed women who stuck with engineering and went on to successful careers. These women often said they began their careers with supportive supervisors. Therefore, researchers told the Post, closing the gender divide in engineering requires changes from the top down. Changes must be system-wide. One researcher told the paper "this is not a womans issue'" and leaders must acknowledge that. It's "about creating a good work environment."
Critical thinking challenge: How did researchers answer this question: Why aren't there more female engineers?