This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

July 18, 2007

Women in Engineering

A recent study demonstrates clearly that the field of engineering is still primarily a "Boys Club". Only 20 percent of engineering degrees in the United States are earned by women; only 9% of American engineers are women.

Though a study by the Families and Work Institute showed that young men are taking a much more active role in their children’s lives, in the US and Europe, the majority of people still expect that most of the burden of housekeeping, childcare, school interface, looking after aging parents, and similar family duties are handled by the woman.

In many industries, an engineering career frequently demands long hours and lots of travel---difficult for a man, even harder for a woman. It is challenging to take care of a family when the job sometimes requires an emergency plant visit at 2am, or worse, weeks or months on assignment overseas.

When it comes to advancing in the corporate hierarchy, women engineers experience the most problems. There is a "systemic pressure," far more difficult than any "overt discrimination," that makes matters even more challenging for women engineers.

Nancy Bartels, Managing Editor for "Control" Magazine, interviewed a number of women engineers. Here’s what they want:

  • Treated with respect, as professionals, just like other engineers
  • Given the chance to prove themselves—just like other engineers.
  • Respected for their ideas and have their thinking processes accepted.
  • Included---in all conversations, casual and otherwise and to be treated as peers and valued team members
  • Mentored and encouraged by experienced seniors.
  • Considered for promotion.

There is no doubt that engineering will benefit from having more women who bring their unique perspectives and innovative ideas to the industry. They also possess intuitive skills and can provide different ways to solve many complex problems, problems that may be approached better through their distinctive points of view. Hundreds of colleges, organizations, and businesses have created programs, workshops, and conferences to increase the number of women in engineering. And if your organization is looking for engineers, don’t overlook The National GEM Consortium, a non-profit headquartered in Washington, DC.

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