According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which cites the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, only 14% of engineers are women. Why do women comprise such a small percentage of the total engineering workforce?
Recently I have noticed a growing interest in understanding the reasons behind this disparity. Perhaps the renewed interest in STEM education is fueling this discussion. Maybe it is simply that more women are becoming engineers and wonder why others are not taking advantage of this incredibly rewarding career opportunity. It is important to examine this issue from different perspectives.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) looks at cultural biases, among other factors. Their report, “Climate Control: Gender and Racial Bias in Engineering” — based on a research study with 3,000 respondents — considers women’s perceived need to prove themselves more than men, assertiveness behaviors and motherhood. The report also looks at some of the racial biases experienced by both male and female engineers.
Directly addressing this complex issue at a technical conference is another way to explore both the lack of women in engineering professions and the higher rate of attrition among women over the course of their careers. Suzanne Deffree, content director and editor in chief of UBM, gathered women executives from engineering-laden technology companies to examine the challenges facing women in engineering. I was fortunate to have participated in this panel and networking event: Women in Engineering, held December 7, 2016 at Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley.
Sylvie Barak’s article — “The Dearth of Women in Sciences? Let’s Keep Talking About It!” — provides a thoughtful account of the Women in Engineering Panel event. Her article concludes as our panel did: with a note of optimism. Click here to read Sylvie’s article.